Looking Humanity in the Eye and Seeing its Loss in the Eyes of the ICC: An Evaluation of Daesh’s Destruction of Palmyra using the Gravity Assessment Made by the ICC Prosecutor in the Al Mahdi Case

Musab Talha Günay


Under international law, cultural property is protected by a broad range of legal instruments prohibiting its destruction during armed conflicts. At the same time, the premise that international crimes must be of a sufficient gravity plays a crucial role in international criminal law. In this sense, the enforcement of the legislative framework aimed at the protection of cultural property before an international court is only possible if the crime concerned is sufficiently grave in the context of international criminal law. While the latest gravity assessment regarding such a crime was made by the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor in Al Mahdi case, previous examples include similar assessments made by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for the shelling of Dubrovnik in the Jokić and Strugar cases. Recently, in addition to its humanitarian plight on a horrible scale, the Syrian Civil War has also seriously affected all six World Heritage Sites within its territory, including the Site of Palmyra. As a result of this ongoing armed conflict, the monuments in the Site of Palmyra experienced widespread damage inflicted by Daesh. Having reference to the ICC Prosecutor’s assessment of the gravity of the crime in the Al Mahdi case, this article analyses the legal arguments which  support the thesis that its destruction is clearly grave enough to take further action by the international community, even if not yet by the ICC due to its lack of jurisdiction.

Słowa kluczowe: protection of cultural property, gravity assessment, the Site of Palmyra, ICC Prosecutor, Al Mahdi case

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