Document Type


Publication Date



Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law




For decades, parties to conflicts have used the cover of war to destroy and loot cultural property and antiquities for financial gain and symbolic victory. The “blood antiquities” excavated in conflict areas and sold mostly in western markets fuel not only continued conflict, but also (as in cases such as Syria and Iraq) terrorism that can reach around the world. The culture of impunity for both buyers and sellers of antiquities allows the blood-antiquities trade to thrive.

A robust international legal framework does exist to ensure accountability for the destruction of cultural heritage. Because looting is a major cause of destruction, it should be included in this framework. The successful prosecution of Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of deliberately attacking historical and cultural monuments bodes well for an end to impunity. Yet, this paper argues that international and domestic systems of regulation and certification are also needed to establish criminal liability and eliminate the willful ignorance of buyers.



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