Press Release: 23 March 2021

The Office of the Prosecutor publishes Draft Policy on Cultural Heritage for consultation


Today, 23 March 2021, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court ("ICC" or the "Court''), published a draft Policy on Cultural Heritage for consultation and comments by States Parties to the Rome Statute, civil society, and the wider community of stakeholders.

The development of this Policy is in line with the Office of the Prosecutor's Strategic Plan to pay particular attention to crimes against and affecting cultural heritage and the commitment of the Office to systematically investigate and prosecute such crimes. "Cultural heritage is the embodiment of the continuity of the human story, a celebration of identity, our commonality and the richness of our diversity.  We all have a duty to protect cultural heritage," stated Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in contextualising this policy initiative. The draft Policy on Cultural Heritage is the manifestation of these commitments within the framework of the Rome Statute.

Building on good practices and experiences of the Office in, inter alia, the Al-Mahdi case, the envisaged Policy will further guide the Office in addressing international crimes against cultural heritage within the Court's legal framework, raise greater awareness about the importance of the issue, and seek to close the impunity gap, including through positive complementarity with national jurisdictions, and maximize impact through collaboration with a wide network of partners and relevant actors.

The draft Policy is based on the Rome Statute and other regulatory instruments of the Court, as well as applicable treaties, and the principles and rules of international law. It also draws on relevant international jurisprudence.

The policy formulation and drafting process to date has been a consultative one. Initial round table consultations took place with a group of external experts, including experts from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization ("UNESCO"), in 2017. The Office has enjoyed close collaboration with UNESCO, and is further consulting this specialised agency of the United Nations also in this round of consultations. The consultations carried out to date have been important to better understand the various angles from which the work of the Office can play a role in the protection of cultural heritage and have assisted the policy formulation process.

The Office is of the view that external consultations on its policies and working methods are helpful to the ends of transparency and predictability. Wider external consultation is also important in ensuring that the Office ultimately adopts a policy that is comprehensive and thoroughly considered.  

The Office therefore welcomes and encourages comments on the draft Policy. Comments can be sent to: [email protected], by Friday, 16 April 2021, midnight (CET). All input received by this deadline will be carefully considered in the internal review and revision process.

The Office is grateful for the interest and support of the Rome Statute community for its activities and initiatives.

The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC conducts independent and impartial preliminary examinations, investigations and prosecutions of the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. Since 2003, the Office has been conducting investigations in multiple situations within the ICC's jurisdiction, namely in Uganda; the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Darfur, Sudan; the Central African Republic (two distinct situations); Kenya; Libya; Côte d'Ivoire; Mali; Georgia, Burundi; Bangladesh/Myanmar, Afghanistan (subject to a pending article 18 deferral request) and Palestine. The Office is also currently conducting preliminary examinations relating to the situations in Bolivia; Colombia; Guinea; the Philippines; and Venezuela (I and II); and has recently completed its preliminary examinations of the situations in Ukraine and Nigeria, which are pending requests to seek authorisation to proceed to investigation.

Source: Office of the Prosecutor | Contact: [email protected]