New actors and emerging norms are strengthening the focus on the protection of cultural heritage in conflict zones and the codification of transnational legal processes. Following the destruction of cultural and religious sites in Timbuktu in 2012, the International Criminal Court (ICC) prompted a watershed moment in international criminal justice—the Al Mahdi trial, which represented the first ever case before an international court where the defendant was solely charged with the war crime of destruction of cultural heritage. The Al Mahdi case provided an opportunity to identify the victims of crimes of destruction of cultural heritage in international law. Beyond the local communities for whom the destroyed sites were of value, it is apparent that the "international community," personified in this case by UNESCO emerged as an actor with legal and symbolic standing. This article charts the trajectory through which UNESCO became the representative—via bifurcation—of the international community in cases of destruction of cultural heritage.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 578-595
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.