Simon O'CorraApr 26, 2022

Cathedral of St. Michael in Mariupol, Ukraine

Geneva Solutions Website

Intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals and places where sick and wounded are collected, provided they are not military objectives.

Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Article 8 War Crimes, Section 2, Sub-section b. 1999

Almost 1,700 years ago, the first house of the Benedictine order rose on a hillside not far from Rome. The Abbey of Montecassino, as it came to be known, was sacked several times during the ensuing centuries, leveled by an earthquake in 1349, and bombed in 1944. The destruction of the abbey and countless other world treasures during the Second World War led, eventually, to the clause detailed above, which is a 1999 protocol added to the 1954 Hague Convention, which codified, for the first time, protection of the cultural heritage that belongs to all mankind.  

However, the story of the Abbey is an example of how much leeway exists for aggressors to bypass the law if they think an historic or religious property is being used for military purpose.  

Propaganda reaching the ears of Allied Commanders held that German forces were holed up at the Abbey because of its strategically important view of the local countryside. The Allies attacked the Abbey, damaging it severely and killing 230 Italian civilians who had taken shelter there.  

Not one German was present.  

Today, the Cathedral of St. Michael in Mariupol, Ukraine, lies devastated by Russian bombardments, its windows smashed, its walls shelled, and its cupola destroyed. Cupolas, the aesthetic pinnacle of a church, provide light and ventilation and contain a great deal of religious symbolism.  

Ukraine is taking steps to protect statues, stained glass and other important memorials, even at a time when the humanitarian disaster is so intense.  

Attacks on cathedrals, churches, theatres or schools, are an assault on the very spirit of any community, the core of its very being, and that of its people. 

Russia, of course, denies bombarding sites of historical, religious or other cultural significance in Ukraine. But no one else doubts that the destruction witnessed by so many is a systematic attempt to wipe out Ukrainian culture. 

The Preamble to the 1954 Hague Convention notes that "...any damage to cultural property, irrespective of the people it belongs to, is a damage to the cultural heritage of all humanity."  

The very fact that the Hague Convention protects cultural heritage should be enough to chasten any aggressor, and the Russians might pause to consider that this 1999 clause has already been used to bring warmongering initiators to justice, with extensive fines and even prison terms imposed.  

Simon O'Corra has been a creative since childhood, working in theatre and film and also as a designer and artist. He now combines all these skills to write monologues, duologues, short and feature films and plays. He also has experience in the following: copywriting, research, mind mapping and brainstorming, script editing and mentoring. Simon is a people's person and is a great networker. He currently has a range of short and feature films in development and plays also awaiting production dates post-Covid.

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