NATO and Libya – Cultural heritage in times of unrest (Part 2/2)

NATO and Libya – Cultural heritage in times of unrest (Part 2/2)


NATO’s mission in Libya ended last month,
completing one of the most successful air campaigns in the history of the alliance.
The campaign was also successfully carried out without any serious damage to Libya’s
ancient heritage sites. Karl Von Habsburg, President of the ‘Blue
Shield Committee’ in Austria and Dr Joris Kila, teacher at the University of Amsterdam
and Chairman of ‘The International Military Cultural Resources Work Group’ were instrumental
in setting up the ‘No Strike List’ of heritage and cultural sites which should be
avoided during NATO’s air operations. “Of course when we hand this list over we
are not in a position to control whether this list really gets respected and therefore we
think it is all the more important afterwards once the conflict ebbs down a little bit,
to have a look and see how much it was respected and where we can help and where we can do
also our work better.” During the conflict there were allegations
that troops and missiles were being stored in the ancient city of Leptis Magna and that
Qadhafi was using it as an archaeological shield. Even with NATO exercising extreme
caution around such sites, with explosives stored there the risk of a catastrophic accident
was great. Yet today the sites of Leptis Magna and Sabratha have been declared to have survived
the conflict unscathed. Great news for the cultural heritage of Libya and the tourist
industry it hopes to resurrect. “You can see that the people you are meeting
are, well if you can say it in this context they’re happy with the change, of course
what happened during the revolution was extremely painful but they are happy with the change
and they are also happy that their cultural heritage comes now to an new flourish, because
very many parts of it were strongly subdued under the Qadhafi rule and now of course they
are hoping that this wonderful cultural heritage that can be found here in Libya will get a
new role.” In these photos we can see how a communication
station was targeted on top of a hill where an historic roman castle lies. The pictures
show how the target was destroyed causing only minor shrapnel damage to the monument.
“It seem like our no strike list with cultural sites was very affective because we didn’t
find serious damage with bombardments by NATO on cultural sites.”
“Well our trip has been a great success because we found that people are very much
involved in protecting cultural heritage themselves and although they were not formally trained,
they didn’t have any set contingency planning, they came up with very creative and helpful
solutions so the damage is very limited, so in that perspective it has been a success
to confirm this.” Cooperation between NATO and other key actors
like the UNESCO will be key to ensure the protection of cultural and historical property
in times of unrest, fulfilling international legal obligations.
This is the NATO Channel, reporting from Libya.

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