Zimbabwe moves towards ratification of 1954 Hague Convention

By Byron Mutingwende


Zimbabwe is moving towards the ratification of the two protocols of the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in the event of armed conflict, it has emerged.


Speaking at a stakeholders’ consultative workshop in Harare recently, Damir Dijakovic, the Regional Cultural Advisor of the United Nations, Educational, Scientific and Cultural Oorganisation (UNESCO) at the Regional Office for Southern Africa said both movable and immovable cultural property should be protected regarless of its origin and ownership.


“It is important to safeguard cultural property under Article 3 of the Hague Convention and Article 5 of the 1999 Second Protocol. Articles 4 and 5 of the Hague Convention and Articles 6 to 9 of the 1999 Second Protocol provide obligations during armed conflict or occupation,” Dijakovic said.


The meeting of the high contracting parties to the 1954 convention was meant to study the problems concerning the application of the Convention and of the Regulations for its execution; and to formulate recommendations in respect thereof. The meeting of the parties to the second protocol sought to elect the Members of the Committee; to endorse the Guidelines for the Implementation of the Second Protocol developed by the Committee; to provide guidelines for the use of the Fund for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict; to supervise its use by the Committee to discuss any problem related to the application of the Protocol, and to make recommendations.


Section 327 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment No. (20) Act 2013 provides for the ratification of International Conventions, Treaties and Agreements by Parliament.


An official with the Parliament of Zimbabwe said in terms of Subsection (2) of Section 327 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, an international treaty which has been concluded or executed by the President or under the President’s authority does not bind Zimbabwe until it has been approved by Parliament; and does not form part of the law of Zimbabwe unless it has been incorporated into the law through  an Act of Parliament.


“Subsection (3) provides that an agreement which is not an international treaty but which has been concluded by the President or under the President’s authority with one or more foreign organisations or entities; and imposes fiscal obligations on Zimbabwe; does not bind Zimbabwe until it has been approved by Parliament,” he said.


The 1954 Hague Convention came after the realisation that there was indiscriminate large scale destruction of cultural property especially in the event of armed conflict. The convention seeks to put in place measures and strategies for the protection of the cultural heritage, in its diverse forms. Working together various jurisdictions, the United Nation Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has elaborated a succession of standard procedures and instruments that aim to ensure security of cultural property across the world in its diversity.


“The business of securing the world’s heritage has been over time reviewed through the protocols to the same convention. The first and Second Protocols of the Hague convention advance a number of essential legal, military and technical aspects of cultural heritage protection. The Second Protocol introduces a new system of enhanced protection for cultural property by national legislation and not used for military purposes or to shield military sites. At the enactment of national legislation for the protection of the heritage, relevant law enforcement institutions draw their duty to protect from such,” said an official from the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).


He added that the ZRP is required to protect the national cultural heritage through enforcement of relative legislation as well as investigating such crimes and apprehending those criminals who will temper with the heritage.


The Deputy Executive Director of the National Museum and Monuments of Zimbabwe, Darlington Munyikwa said statutes that govern the administration and preservation of the heritage in Zimbabwe include the National museum and monuments of Zimbabwe act Chapter 25:11, the National Gallery of Zimbabwe Act chapter 25:09 and the National Archives of Zimbabwe Act, Chapter 25:06.


Munyikwa called for a coordinated synergy of strategic stakeholders in the protection of cultural heritage.