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Deputy FM Amanatidis’ remarks at an event on “The Destruction of Cultural Heritage” (Geneva, 1 March 2016)

Tuesday, 01 March 2016

In his remarks at an event on “The Destruction of Cultural Heritage,” held by the Cypriot Permanent Mission to the UN, in collaboration with the Permanent Missions of Greece, Brazil, Ethiopia, Iraq, Ireland, Poland, Serbia and Switzerland, as well as the Geneva Academy, Deputy Foreign Minister Ioannis Amanatidis noted the need to protect cultural heritage.

In his statements, Mr. Amanatidis underscored, among other things, that “the principle of free access to and enjoyment of cultural heritage is an essential aspect of this right and, as such, has a firm basis in international law of human rights. It is closely linked to the cultural identity of persons and communities, as well as with the enjoyment and exercising of a number of other human rights, including freedom of expression, religious freedom and the right to education. Thus, the destruction of cultural heritage can lead only to serious violations of human rights. In this context, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) has rightly stressed that all contracting parties are obligated to respect and protect cultural heritage in all its forms, in times of war and peace and during natural disasters.”

Mr. Amanatidis also noted that “it is of particular importance that we understand that we all have a common responsibility to protect cultural heritage in times of peace and war. While human life is more important that material objects, it is nevertheless important for there to be rules for protecting cultural goods that constitute the collective memory of humanity. It is obvious that the preservation of cultural heritage is vital in rebuilding damaged communities and restoring their identities and the connection between the their past, present and future. The Human Rights Council can play an important role in defending respect for cultural rights, as an intrinsic aspect of its tireless efforts to protect and promote human rights for all, in accordance with the founding principles.”

The event was addressed by distinguished politicians and academics, as well as by representatives of international organizations. Among the speakers were Alexandros Zenon, the Permanent Secretary of the Cypriot Foreign Ministry; Yuri Fedotov, Executive director of the UNODC; Karima Bennoune, UN special envoy for Cultural Rights; and Kristin Hausler, the Dorset Senior Research Fellow in Public International Law at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law.