Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release January 6, 1999
TO THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES:
I transmit herewith, for the advice and consent of the Senate to
ratification, the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural
Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (the Convention) and, for
accession, the Hague Protocol, concluded on May 14, 1954, and entered
into force on August 7, 1956. Also enclosed for the information of the
Senate is the report of the Department of State on the Convention and
the Hague Protocol.
I also wish to take this opportunity to reiterate my support for
the prompt approval of Protocol II Additional to the Geneva Conventions
of 12 August 1949, concluded at Geneva on June 10, 1977 (Protocol II).
Protocol II, which deals with noninternational armed conflicts, or
civil wars, was transmitted to the Senate for advice and consent to
ratification in 1987 by President Reagan but has not been acted upon.
The Hague Convention
The Convention was signed by the United States on May 14, 1954, the
same day it was concluded; however, it has not been submitted to the
Senate for advice and consent to ratification until now.
The Hague Convention, to which more than 80 countries are party,
elaborates on obligations contained in earlier treaties. It also
establishes a regime for special protection of a highly limited category
of cultural property. It provides both for preparations in peacetime
for safeguarding cultural property against foreseeable effects of armed
conflicts, and also for respecting such property in time of war or
military occupation. In conformity with the customary practice of
nations, the protection of cultural property is not absolute. If
cultural property is used for military purposes, or in the event of
imperative military necessity, the protection afforded by the Convention
is waived, in accordance with the Convention's terms.
Further, the primary responsibility for the protection of cultural
property rests with the party controlling that property, to ensure that
the property is properly identified and that it is not used for an
The Hague Protocol, which was concluded on the same day as the
Convention, but is a separate agreement, contains provisions intended to
prevent the exportation of cultural property from occupied territory.
It obligates an occupying power to prevent the exportation of cultural
property from territory it occupies, requires each party to take into
its custody cultural property exported contrary to the Protocol, and
requires parties to return such cultural property at the close of
hostilities. However, as described in the report of the Secretary of
State, there are concerns about the acceptability of Section I of the
Hague Protocol. I therefore recommend that at the time of accession,
the United States exercise its right under Section III of the Hague
Protocol to declare that it will not be bound by the provisions of
The United States signed the Convention on May 14, 1954. Since
that time, it has been subject to detailed interagency reviews. Based
on these reviews, I have concluded that the United States should now
become a party to the Convention and to the Hague Protocol, subject to
the understandings and declaration contained in the report of the
Department of State.
United States military policy and the conduct of operations are
entirely consistent with the Convention's provisions. In large measure,
the practices required by the Convention to protect cultural property
were based upon the practices of U.S. military forces during World War
II. A number of concerns that resulted in the original decision not to
submit the Convention for advice and consent have not materialized in
the decades of experience with the Convention since its entry into
force. The minor concerns that remain relate to ambiguities in
language that should be addressed through appropriate understandings,
as set forth in the report of the Department of State.
I believe that ratification of the Convention and accession to the
Protocol will underscore our long commitment, as well as our practice
in combat, to protect the world's cultural resources.
I am also mindful of the international process underway for review
of the Convention. By becoming a party, we will be in a stronger
position to shape any proposed amendments and help ensure that U.S.
interests are preserved.
I recommend, in light of these considerations, that the Senate
give early and favorable consideration to the Convention and the
Protocol and give its advice and consent to ratification and accession,
subject to the understandings and declaration contained in the report
of the Department of State.
Protocol II Additional
In his transmittal message dated January 29, 1987, President Reagan
requested the advice and consent of the Senate to ratification of
Protocol II. The Senate, however, did not act on Protocol II. I
believe the Senate should now renew its consideration of this important
Protocol II expands upon the fundamental humanitarian provisions
contained in the 1949 Geneva Conventions with respect to internal armed
conflicts. Such internal conflicts have been the source of appalling
civilian suffering, particularly over the last several decades.
Protocol II is aimed specifically at ameliorating the suffering of
victims of such internal conflicts and, in particular, is directed at
protecting civilians who, as we have witnessed with such horror this
very decade, all too often find themselves caught in the crossfire of
such conflicts. Indeed, if Protocol II's fundamental rules were
observed, many of the worst human tragedies of recent internal armed
conflicts would have been avoided.
Because the United States traditionally has held a leadership
position in matters relating to the law of war, our ratification would
help give Protocol II the visibility and respect it deserves and would
enhance efforts to further ameliorate the suffering of war's victims --
especially, in this case, victims of internal armed conflicts.
I therefore recommend that the Senate renew its consideration of
Protocol II Additional and give its advice and consent to ratification,
subject to the understandings and reservations that are described fully
in the report attached to the original January 29, 1987, transmittal
message to the Senate.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON
THE WHITE HOUSE,
January 6, 1999.
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