Protecting Cultural Heritage: International Law after the War in Iraq

February 3, 2006 - 3:00pm to 5:00pm

The University of Chicago Law School
Glen A. Lloyd Auditorium, 1111 East 60th Street, Chicago

Organized by the Cultural Policy Center, in collaboration with The Oriental Institute and The University of Chicago Law School

Conference Overview



Participant Bios

Sponsors and Partners

Conference Overview

Upon the fall of Saddam Hussein's government in April 2003, news accounts described in grim detail how Iraq's National Museum, which had been used as a fortified military position by the Special Republican Guard in violation of international law, was pillaged while American forces, which had not designated a unit to secure the Museum, patrolled nearby. Profit-driven plundering at archaeological sites almost immediately escalated throughout the country. It continues to this day. Meanwhile, coalition forces have built an airbase abutting Babylon and, more recently dug trenches through ancient buried cities.

The 2003 Iraq war exposed serious shortcomings in the international legal framework built over the last century to prevent the pillaging, looting and destruction of cultural property in times of war. International law encompasses several legal instruments intended to ensure protection of cultural heritage during armed conflict and occupation. However, these international conventions need to be evaluated in light of changes in methods of warfare and occupation; changes in cultural resource management techniques that impact historic monuments and archaeological site preservation; and our current understanding of the interaction between warfare and the international art market.

"Protecting Cultural Heritage: International Law after the War in Iraq" will examine international legal provisions for protecting cultural property during armed conflict and occupation, and offer suggestions on how to strengthen them. Panelists will consider the legal status of the 1954 Hague Convention, its applicability to the events in Iraq, and proposals for a new protocol to the Hague Convention that will address the problems that arose in Iraq. The need for a new protocol is urgent given the possibility of war in other regions rich in cultural heritage resources.

Organizers and panelists include:

  • Colonel Matthew Bogdanos, U.S. Marine Corps, leader of the interagency investigation into the Iraqi antiquities looting during Operation Iraqi Freedom
  • Patrick Boylan, Emeritus Professor of Heritage Policy and Management, City University , London
  • Guido Carducci, Chief of the International Standards Unit, Cultural Heritage Division, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
  • Patty Gerstenblith, Professor, DePaul University College of Law; President, Lawyers Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation
  • McGuire Gibson, Professor of Archaeology, The Oriental Institute; President, The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq
  • Jan Hladik, Program Specialist, Cultural Heritage Division, UNESCO
  • Lawrence Rothfield, Faculty Director, Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago; author of the forthcoming report on the policy planning failures that led to the post-invasion looting of Iraq's cultural heritage

Moderator: Kenneth Dam, Professor Emeritus of American & Foreign Law and Senior Lecturer, The University of Chicago Law School, and The Brookings Institute

Respondent: Eric Posner, Professor of Law, The University of Chicago Law School


Thieves of Baghdad - And of the World's Cultural Property
Colonel Matthew Bogdanos, U.S. Marine Corps; Leader of the interagency investigation into Iraqi antiquities looting during Operation Iraqi Freedom

Implementing the 1954 Hague Convention and its Protocols: Legal and Practical Implications
Patrick Boylan, Professor Emeritus of Heritage Policy and Management, Department of Cultural Policy and Management, City University, London

Did the Hague Convention "Fail"? International Assessments on the Need for New International Laws; International Legal Responses and Future Outlook
Guido Carducci, Chief of the International Standards Unit, Cultural Heritage Division, UNESCO

The Case for Changes in International Law in the Aftermath of the 2003 Gulf War
Patty Gerstenblith, Professor of Law, DePaul University

Overview of the International Antiquities Situation
McGuire Gibson, Professor of Archaeology, The Oriental Institute; President, The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq

The 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Even of Armed Conflict and its 1999 Second Protocol
Jan Hladik, Programme Specialist, International Standards Section, Division of Cultural Heritage, UNESCO

Additional background:

The UNESCO 1995-2004 Periodic Activity Report on the Implementation of the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Heritage in the Event of Armed Conflict and its Two 1854 and 1999 Protocols."

"Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict with Regulations for the Execution of the Convention 1954"


2:30-3:00 p.m. Check in
3:00-3:05 p.m.

Welcome and opening remarks

Lawrence Rothfield, Faculty Director, Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago

3:05-3:20 p.m.

Background on the issue

McGuire Gibson, Professor of Archaeology, The Oriental Institute; President, The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq

3:20-4:15 p.m.

Presentation of position papers

Jan Hladik, Program Specialist, Cultural Heritage Division, UNESCO

Guido Carducci, Chief of the International Standards Unit, Cultural Heritage Division, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

Patrick Boylan, Emeritus Professor of Heritage Policy and Management, City University, London

Patty Gerstenblith, Professor, DePaul University College of Law; President of the Lawyers Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation

Matthew Bogdanos, Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps

4:15-4:30 p.m.

Respondent remarks

Eric Posner, Professor, The University of Chicago Law School

4:30-5:00 p.m.

Open discussion and audience Q&A

Moderator: Kenneth Dam, Professor, The University of Chicago Law School

5:00-5:45 p.m. Reception

Participant Bios


Lawrence Rothfield is Faculty Director of Cultural Policy Center, and Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago. Rothfield co-founded the Center after serving as director and co-founder of the University's Master of Arts Program in the Humanities. His major publications include Vital Signs, about the social function of the 19th-century novel; The Measure of Man, a forthcoming study of the politics of culture in the Florentine Renaissance; and a volume of edited essays on the Brooklyn Museum controversy, Unsettling "Sensation": Arts Policy Lessons from the Brooklyn Museum of Art Controversy. He is producing a report on the series of policy missteps that led to the failure to protect the Baghdad Museum and Iraqi archeological sites from looting following the 2003 war.

McGuire Gibson is Professor of Archaeology, The Oriental Institute, and President of the American Academic Research Institute in Iraq. He is a key figure in pre-war efforts to persuade the U.S. government to protect sites in Iraq from destruction and looting, representing the interests of academic archaeologists, and speaks to the ways in which the government interacts with outside experts in planning process. In May 2003, shortly after the American invasion of Iraq, he visited Iraq as part of a UNESCO mission to inspect the fate of the country's museums and archeological sites.


Eric Posner is Kirkland and Ellis Professor of Law, the University of Chicago. He is author, with Jack Goldsmith, of The Limits of International Law (Oxford, 2005), and Law and Social Norms (Harvard, 2000); and editor of Chicago Lectures in Law and Economics (Foundation, 2000) and, with Matthew Adler, Cost-Benefit Analysis: Legal, Economic, and Philosophical Perspectives (University of Chicago, 2001). He is also an editor of the Journal of Legal Studies. He has published articles on bankruptcy law, contract law, international law, cost-benefit analysis, constitutional law, and administrative law, and has taught courses on international law, foreign relations law, contracts, employment law, bankruptcy law, secured transactions, and game theory and the law. His current research focuses on international law, including the laws of war, international adjudication, and war crimes trials. He is a graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School . Born: 1965. Education: B.A., M.A. 1988, Yale University ; J.D. 1991, Harvard University.


Kenneth Dam has devoted his career to public policy issues. He has served as deputy secretary in the U.S. Department of Treasury (2001-2003) and the U.S. Department of State (1982-1985). In 1973, he was executive director of the Council on Economic Policy, a White House office responsible for coordinating U.S. domestic and international economic policy. From 1971 to 1973, he served as assistant director for national security and international policy of the Office of Management and Budget. He began his Washington career as law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Charles E. Whittaker (1957-1958). He began his academic career at the University of Chicago in 1960. From 1980 to 1982, he served as University provost. Most of his academic work has focused on law and economics, particularly on international issues. His publications include The GATT: Law and International Economic Organization; Economic Policy Beyond the Headlines (with George P. Shultz); and, most recently, The Rules of the Global Game: A New Look at U.S. International Policymaking. Dam also was IBM vice president for law and external relations (1985- 992), and president and chief executive officer of the United Way of America for a six-month period in 1992, when he was chosen to address scandal in the organization and establish a new governance system. He has extensive experience as an arbitrator, including five years as the system arbitrator for professional basketball. He is a senior fellow and member of the board of the Brookings Institution; a member of the Shadow Financial Regulatory Committee and of the National Academies' Science, Technology and Law Panel; former chairman of the German-American Academic Council; and a board member for nonprofit institutions including the Council on Foreign Relations (New York) and the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. Born: 1932. Education: B.S., 1954, University of Kansas ; J.D., 1957, University of Chicago ; LL.D. (hon.), 1983, New School for Social Research.


Matthew Bogdanos is colonel in the U.S. Marine Reserves and leader of the interagency investigation into the Iraqi antiquities looting during Operation Iraqi Freedom. An assistant district attorney in Manhattan since 1988, a middleweight boxer, and a native New Yorker, he holds a degree in classics from Bucknell University, a law degree and a master's degree in classical studies from Columbia University, and a master's degree in strategic studies from the Army War College. Recalled to active duty after September 11, 2001, he received a Bronze Star for counterterrorist operations in Afghanistan, and served two tours of duty in Iraq. He is the recipient of a 2005 National Humanities Medal for his work recovering Iraq's treasures, and the author of the recently published book Thieves of Baghdad: One Marine's Passion for Ancient Civilizations and the Journey to Recover the World's Greatest Stolen Treasures ( Bloomsbury).He plans to return to the district attorney's office where he will continue the hunt for stolen antiquities.

Patrick Boylan is Professor Emeritus of Heritage Policy and Management in the Department of Cultural Policy and Management at City University, London, UK. He directed major UK regional museums, galleries, archives and heritage services for more than 23 years before becoming professor and head of the department at City University in 1990, retiring in 2004. Author of more than 180 publications ranging over contemporary art, geology, history of science, museology and heritage studies, he has served as consultant and advisor on heritage and wider cultural policy and management for 15 national governments and leading international organizations, including UNESCO, the Council of Europe, and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). His 1992-1993 consultancy for UNESCO and the Dutch government on the apparent failures of the original 1954 Hague Convention to achieve its purpose of protecting important cultural property in several major conflicts—such as the Arab Israeli wars, divided Cyprus, Cambodia and ex-Yugoslavia—resulted in UNESCO's 1993 "Boylan Report. The report led to the development and eventual adoption of the Second Protocol to the Hague Convention in 1999.

Guido Carducci is Chief of the International Standards Section, Division of Cultural Heritage, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). He holds a Ph.D in international law (Docteur en droit, University Paris II), a Ph.D in comparative private law (Dottore di ricerca, University Rome I), and diploma from the Hague Academy of International Law. He has taught and published on domestic and international law, private and public, for many years. Carducci was a member of the Italian delegation to UNESCO for negotiation of the 2001 Convention for the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage. His memberships include the International Law Association Committee on Cultural Heritage Law and Société Française pour le Droit International.

Patty Gerstenblith has been Professor of Law at DePaul University College of Law since 1984. She is director of DePaul's program in art and cultural heritage law, and co-chair of the American Bar Association's International Cultural Property Committee. She was editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Cultural Property from1995 to 2002, and served as a public representative on the President's Cultural Property Advisory Committee in the U.S. Department of State from 2000 to 2003. She is also the current President of the Lawyers Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation. Her most recent books include Art, Cultural Heritage and the Law and Iraq Beyond the Headlines: History, Archaeology and War, co-authored with Benjamin R. Foster and Karen Polinger Foster. She received her J.D. from Northwestern University and a Ph.D. from Harvard University in Fine Art and Anthropology.

Jan Hladik is Programme Specialist of the International Standards Section, Division of Cultural Heritage, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Born in Prague, he graduated with honors from the International Law Faculty of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and received a juris doctor diploma from the Charles University in Prague. After two years working in the Czechoslovak Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he joined UNESCO; since November 1992, he has worked in the International Standards Section of the Division of Cultural Heritage in Paris, currently as a programme specialist in charge of the implementation of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, and its 1954 and 1999 Protocols. He has published professional journal articles on the Hague Convention and related issues, and has participated in a number of UNESCO's official missions, including the March 1999 Hague Diplomatic Conference on the Second Protocol to the Hague Convention.

Sponsors and Organizers


"Protecting Cultural Heritage: International Law after the War in Iraq" is made possible through the generous support of:

We also gratefully acknowledge those who provided in-kind and other support of this program:


The Cultural Policy Center at The University of Chicago

The Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago is an interdisciplinary research center and nationally recognized leader in the emerging field of cultural policy research and education. Founded in 1999 as a joint initiative of the Harris School of Public Policy Studies and the Division of Humanities, its mission is to provide research and inform policy that affects the arts, humanities and cultural heritage. 

"Protecting Cultural Heritage: International Law after the War in Iraq" continues the Center's long-standing commitment to fostering rigorous, transdisciplinary and timely scholarship and informed debate on significant cultural issues with immediate policy implications. Previous major conferences include "Taking Funds, Giving Offense, Making Money: The Brooklyn Museum of Art Controversy and the Dilemmas of Arts Policy"; "Building on the Past: Landmarks Policy and Urban Development"; "Playing by the Rules: The Cultural Policy Challenges of Video Games"; and "The Future of Public Television."

By convening academic experts and policy professionals to address the assault upon the world's cultural heritage, the Cultural Policy Center again seeks to identify solutions to pressing problems in the cultural sector.

The Oriental Institute

Scholars at The Oriental Institute have been responsible for some of the most important archaeological surveys and regional studies undertaken in Iraq to date.

The University of Chicago's archaeological involvement in Iraq began in 1903, when two seasons of excavations were undertaken at the site of Bismaya (ancient Adab). Systematic work in long-term planning began in the 1920s as the Oriental Institute Iraq Expedition established excavations at the site of Khorsabad (ancient Dur-Sharrukin), the capital of the Assyrian king Sargon II. Subsequent excavations in the Diyala Region (1930-1936), during which four sites in the area northeast of Baghdad were comprehensively and systematically excavated, helped to establish much of early Mesopotamia's early chronology.

Since 1948, the Institute has worked at the site of Nippur, the holy city of the Sumerians, and continued until Gulf War of 1991. Its commitment to archaeology in Iraq continued even after the United Nations imposed an economic embargo on Iraq that halted archaeological work by foreigners. In 1994, the Institute launched the Diyala Project, publishing online all archaeological data from its most extensive project in Iraq. Satellite photography and remote sensing became another major focus for Oriental Institute research, encompassing published studies on site distribution and ancient river channels. 

In 2002, impending war on Iraq and the resulting threat to its archaeological heritage led McGuire Gibson, Professor for Mesopotamian Archaeology at the Oriental Institute, to work with students to compile a list of 4,000 of Iraq's most important archaeological sites, monuments, and museums. The list was provided to the military on January 25, 2003, with the sole intention to avoid damage to these sites during combat. 

Following the war, the fall of Baghdad, and the looting of the Iraq Museum in April 2003, scholars at the Oriental Institute formed an "Iraq Working Group" to coordinate needed actions on behalf of Iraq's sites and antiquities. One week after the looting of the Iraq Museum between April 9 and 11, 2003, The Oriental Institute launched its Iraq Museum Database Project and online clearinghouse to document the losses of artifacts from the museum and aid in their recovery.

The Institute's excavations since the 1920s at some of Iraq's most important sites, had resulted in the recovery of thousands of objects housed between the Iraq Museum and the Oriental Institute; because all of these objects were catalogued during excavation and most photographed and/or drawn in the field, the Oriental Institute has visual and descriptive records of almost 20,000 objects that were housed in the Iraq Museum.

"Lost Treasures of Iraq," the online clearinghouse for information relating to Iraq's cultural heritage, draws upon the Institute's records to catalogue objects from the Iraq Museum confirmed or feared to have been stolen, or whose status is unknown. Scholars and publishers from around the world have contributed material, both published and unpublished, to augment the database. The Lost Treasures site also housed IraqCrisis, a moderated list that communicates information on cultural property damaged, destroyed or lost from Iraq's museums and libraries. 

The University of Chicago Law School

The University of Chicago Law School is an integral part of the world-class intellectual community of the University of Chicago. Students from diverse backgrounds study with leading scholars and teachers trained to think independently, critically and creatively about the law. 

The Law School has always been home to innovative scholarship. The faculty is, by a wide margin, the most productive, widely cited, and influential law faculty in the United States -- and perhaps the world. Because the Law School believes in interdisciplinary inquiry, members of our faculty do not limit themselves to the study of legal doctrine. They are also economists, historians and philosophers. They include a former U.S. Secretary of State, a U.S. Senator, several judges and numerous practicing lawyers.

The Law School has played a pivotal role in many innovations in legal education made over the last century, including developing the field of law and economics, the recognition of administrative and comparative law as fields of study, and broadening curriculum to include greater empirical and clinical study.

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