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Report on the Implementation of International Humanitarian Law with regards to the Protection of Cultural Heritage in the Occupied Tskhinvali Region, Georgia

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Emma CunliffeORCiD



This is the final published version of a report that has been published in its final definitive form by Blue Shield Georgia and Newcastle University, 2022.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


This report investigated damage in light of the primary international legislation designed to regulate the protection of cultural heritage in conflict – the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, and its two Protocols (1954, 1999), and other key international legislation including illicit trafficking of artifacts. Using multi-source analysis that includes eyewitness reports, interviews, media, social media, published NGO and IO reports, and satellite imagery assessment via Google Earth and published reports by UNOSAT-UNITAR, the authors demonstrated that damage was incurred not only during the hostilities in 2008, but has continued since and still continues today. Following the fighting, other factors include illegal interventions causing alteration of the historic fabric of sites, construction of military facilities and other new infrastructure in close proximity to the sites, alongside general neglect. These pose serious risks to the preservation of the cultural heritage of the region. The slow attrition of Georgian cultural heritage forms part of a wider narrative of loss. The lives of the people who owned and used the cultural heritage – whose ancestors may have built the sites, who visited them, who worshipped in the churches and the synagogue – are deeply impacted by the conflict in ways that move beyond their immediate needs. Not only have they lost access to their sites, but their traditions and practices and ways of living that have been passed down through generations are disrupted, and in some cases at risk of permanent loss. The demolition of historic Georgian villages, loss of authentic fabric at sites, and modification of churches, is part of a wider revision of the entire landscape, also evidenced in the alteration of place names, and revision of historical and religious narratives. Actions to protect and maintain heritage are hindered by lack of access; monitoring is extremely difficult. Since the early 1990s and especially in the years since 2008, given the political deadlock and lack of access, it has been – and remains – impossible for Georgia to make any progress in implementation of the 1954 Hague Convention in safeguarding and preserving its cultural property. Based on a detailed analysis of the situation of the region’s cultural heritage, this report concludes with a series of recommendations to improve protection, covering not only the implementation of international law, but good practice.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Tevzadze M, Meladze S, Gasparov B, Sopromadze T, Cunliffe E, Nabati Y, Edwards L

Publication type: Report

Publication status: Published

Series Title:

Year: 2022

Pages: 33

Online publication date: 07/11/2022

Acceptance date: 07/11/2022

Institution: Blue Shield Georgia and Newcastle University

Place Published: Tblisi


ePrints DOI: 10.57711/p8ch-3602

Notes: The full file is too large to upload: this is the Executive Summary. Report revised July 2023. Full report available at:'s%20occupied%20territories_Final_Redacted.pdf