Restoring cultural property and communities after conflict

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Law


The destruction of cultural property represents an attack on a community's history, cultural and religious activities and even identity, and can serve as a way to eliminate diversity and divergent historical narratives. Recent years have seen an increase in incidences of intentional destruction of cultural property during conflict, for example in Iraq and Syria. While established legal frameworks outline the obligation to protect cultural property during conflict, there has been little consideration of the ways in which different actors can respond to and make reparations for destruction which has already occurred. One development has been the growing recognition of the need to criminalise and prosecute attacks on cultural heritage, as evidenced in international criminal tribunals such as the International Criminal Court. However, challenges remain for those who would seek to respond to such harms, both in terms of the appropriate legal frameworks to be used, and in relation to the practical and ethical challenges associated with the restitution and restoration of cultural property.

This project contributes to this emerging discussion. It aims to develop a 'thicker' understanding of the impact of the destruction of cultural property on the affected communities. It will explore the practical challenges associated with protecting and restoring cultural property after armed conflict, and consider to what extent transitional justice processes can effectively respond to the harm caused by the destruction of cultural property. Being aware of the the dangers associated with giving preferential treatment to the perspectives of elites over affected communities, the project will also analyse in whose interests' reparative projects are designed and implemented, and will aim to challenge elitist perspectives by engaging directly with affected communities.

The project uses Cambodia as a case study. In Cambodia, the Cham Islamic minority were were subjected to genocide and religious persecution during the Khmer Rouge regime, and an estimated 130 mosques were destroyed. Many Cham are now participating in the work of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, where a number of accused face charges related to persecution and the destruction of cultural property. The ECCC has the power to award reparations for harms resulting from the destruction of cultural property if the accused are found guilty of those crimes, but will rely on external sources of funding and organisation in order to deliver such reparations As a case study, Cambodia therefore provides an opportunity to explore the role of courts, civil society and international actors in responding to the destruction of cultural property, as well as offering an opportunity to speak with affected communities.

The project team will collaborate with a local NGO known as the Documentation Centre for Cambodia (DC-Cam) and will conduct focus groups with affected communities, in order explore the impact of the destruction of cultural property on those communities. Interviews will also be conducted with practitioners involved in restoration projects elsewhere, and with individuals involved in the prosecution of cultural heritage crimes.

This project will produce outputs which help inform future policy responses to the destruction of cultural property and development in relation to cultural heritage and cultural diversity. Collaborating with DC-Cam, the project team will produce:
- Guidelines on developmental multi-actor responses to the destruction of cultural property.
- A proposal advocating for the restoration of Cham cultural property. The specific sites will be determined by fieldwork and consultation with local actors and civil parties. The proposal will be disseminated in the form of a legal submission to the ECCC.
-A broader Cambodia policy document for organisations potentially involved in the provision of reparations.

Planned Impact

A key part of this project will be to develop bespoke accessible policy reports. These impact outputs include:

1. A reparations proposal for the restoration of Cham cultural property to be submitted to the ECCC.
2. A reparations proposal based on the submission to the ECCC, but drafted so as to be of use to organisations and donors working outside the Court's remit.
3. Guidelines on the restoration and restitution of cultural property during and post-conflict.
4. The publication of newspaper articles in Cambodian papers, as well as a blog.

Who might benefit?
Primary Beneficiaries
The primary beneficiaries of the research will be the victim communities, their legal representatives, and civil society actors who are engaged in advocating for and litigating on reparations in Cambodia.

Secondary Beneficiaries
The secondary beneficiaries are policy makers, relevant government departments, legal institutions and other civil society and human rights organisations who engage with issues surrounding the restoration and restitution of cultural property.

Tertiary Beneficiaries
The lessons derived from this research will be of direct relevance to a range of similar actors in other jurisdictions (e.g. Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia) that are seeking or may seek to deal with a legacy of violent conflict, and specifically its impact on cultural heritage and the destruction of cultural property. The guidelines on the restoration and restitution of cultural property may be of use to victim groups, legal collectives, jurists, drafters of the Crimes against Humanity Convention and any future UNESCO conventions, human rights NGOs and state actors.

How might they benefit?

Primary Beneficiaries
Primary beneficiaries will be involved throughout the project lifecycle including through fieldwork, engagement on the drafting of the reparations proposal, and through the dissemination of the reparations proposal and guidelines. The Guidelines and proposal will be of use to local civil society, victim representatives and victim groups, particularly when engaging with courts and other actors in reparation negotiations and processes. Beneficiaries will also be engaged through the publication of newspaper articles in local papers, and through blog posts and the project's Twitter account.

Secondary Beneficiaries
Secondary beneficiaries, including policy makers, relevant government departments, legal institutions and other civil society and human rights organisations will also be engaged with throughout the project lifecycle. Blog posts, the Twitter account and the publication of newspaper and academic articles will be used to ensure international dissemination. Our guidelines will be of practical use to international human rights organisations, legal collectives, victim groups and other policy makers going forward.

Tertiary Beneficiaries
As the project gathers pace and momentum, policy makers, lawyers, NGOs, activists with an interest in reparations, victims and victims' groups, regional and international courts, relevant international human rights/transitional justice bodies and the general public in other jurisdictions will be engaged via the project dissemination strategy (including the blogs, guidelines, reparation proposals, website and through presentations at conferences). Listservers, such as the Victims' Rights Working Group, Network of Transitional Justice Researchers (TJNetwork), and JUSTWATCH, which have several thousand members working in international law and transitional justice in over 80 countries and UNESCO's mailing list will be used to further ensure wide dissemination. Following completion of the research and academic outputs (journal articles), it is expected that invitations to give addresses will follow, both from academic institutions and policy making/practitioner bodies.
Description The project is delivering a 'thicker' understanding of the harm caused by destruction of cultural property, and new strategies for effective community-driven reparations for the Cham communities in Cambodia. We found that the harm caused by destruction of cultural property was felt as a deep and serious personal harm (equated to an attack on life), and had ongoing inter-generational impacts, particularly in terms of cultural/religious leadership capacity, and memory and understanding. While communities spoke of the loss of physical manifestations of culture, they related that harm to an attack on a way of life and religious practice. The participants we spoke to often reflected on the community's desire to rebuild mosques and to have a place to engage in religious practice, but not necessarily a desire for this rebuilding to be done in a particular way. The communities we spoke with rarely attached particular significance to rebuilding mosques in the style that they had been in before the regime. It seemed that participants prioritised having a space to gather, and some physical representation of their religion.
The communities we spoke with identified ongoing needs for reparations in various forms, having to do with: culture preservation; mosque restoration/expansion; education about the past; community services; justice/acknowledgement; and compensation. We created, and are sustaining, a very productive partnership with a prominent Cambodian NGO (DC-Cam), and are co-developing a series of initiatives to create opportunities for ongoing dialogue around reparations, cultural heritage and the human rights of the Cham minority in Cambodia.
Exploitation Route The project team will continue to work with DC-Cam to develop community-based engagement activities in Cambodia, and to assist DC-Cam in developing/implementing the non-judicial measure. We are confident that this partnership will continue beyond the project, and that it offers a number of pathways to impact with the NGO sector and victim-communities in Cambodia. The findings and method of this project can be developed and applied to a larger comparative study. The project team will take this forward and has committed to developing a further proposal.
Sectors Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description Direct dialogue with the Cham people (through focus groups) has facilitated their ability to engage and consult on issues around the reconstruction of their cultural heritage. We are working with our partner in Cambodia (DC-Cam, a prominent local NGO) on a series of pathways to impact, including an in-country workshop and briefing for NGOs engaged in reparations development; and a booklet exploring and explaining the Cham post-conflict recovery story aimed at a high school audience. The creation of the booklet is a direct response to the wishes of the communities taking part in the project. The booklet will form the basis of a proposal to develop a 'non-judicial measure' in Cambodia. Non-judicial measures are projects which address the broader needs of victims, and are the creation of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia - they are donor funded and facilitated by civil society actors coordinating with the ECCC's Victim Support Services (VSS). Developing this proposal will allow us to strengthen our partnership with DC-Cam, building its capacity for victims-research and assisting its engagement with the ECCC. In the medium-long term, such initiatives have broad capacity to reinforce minority rights and promote social inclusion, fostering social cohesion, and promoting the development of a peaceful and inclusive society for sustainable development.
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

Description DC-Cam 
Organisation Documentation Center of Cambodia
PI Contribution We have successfully created a sustainable and mutually supportive relationship with a key non-academic stakeholder in the identified LMIC (Documentation Center of Cambodia - DC-Cam - an independent Cambodian research institute which has developed a reputation as a leader in the quest for memory and justice in Cambodia). The project team has engaged in capacity building activity with DC-Cam staff and volunteers, including a workshop on legal skills/analysis delivered at DC-Cam in March 2017.
Collaborator Contribution DC-Cam arranged and facilitated fieldwork, providing translation and interview transcription. We are working with them to develop dissemination activities with the communities we visited, and they have translated to Khmer a research findings summary which can be presented and discussed to Cham communities (DC-Cam facilitated the first of these sessions on 9 January 2018). At the time of writing we are co-developing policy outputs intended to assist NGOs working in Cambodia to develop strategies for community engagement/empowerment.
Impact The team prepared fieldwork reports and summaries which have been translated into Khmer by DC-Cam and distributed to interviewees/focus group members. The summary is published in English here:
Start Year 2016
Description Conference talk: Transformative justice, cultural heritage and genocide in Cambodia: Reparations for the Cham 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Talk at Utrecht University (SIM) on transformative justice. I spoke on our research in Cambodia with the Cham.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Feedback Session with a Cham Community in Cambodia 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact In January 2018 Dr Killean revisited one of the communities who had participated in the field research. She relayed the project's main findings, and sought feedback on whether those findings accurately reflected the community's experience. Space was given for the group to flag any omissions in the report, during which the community reiterated the importance of the finding that communities wished to have more sources of information about the crimes perpetrated against the Cham with which to educate the younger generation. Copies of the report were left with the community.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description Legal-skills workshop, DC-Cam, Cambodia 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact This was a workshop on legal-skills and analysis, facilitated by members of the project team in March 2017, and delivered to an audience of approx. 40 staff and volunteers of the Documentation Centre for Cambodia in Phnom Penh.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Restoring Truth to Ruins - Cambridge Festival of Ideas 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact For the 2017 University of Cambridge Festival of Ideas we organised an exhibition (21 October - 11 November), panel discussion (Saturday 21 October 15:00-16:00), and workshop (Saturday 21 October 16:00-18:00) entitled "Restoring Truth to Ruins?". These were held at the Cambridge Central Library (the city's main public library).

The exhibition was curated by Dr Dacia Viejo Rose and Sarah Nankivell.
The panel discussion was chaired by Dr Dacia Viejo Rose, the panellists were Sarah Nankivell, Dr Paola di Giuseppantonio di Franco, Dr. Rachel Killean, and artist Martha McGuinn.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017