Cultural heritage, common goods and the law

Objectives and competences

This module will provide a legal reference point for students, which will be useful both for present study and future practice. For example, they will become familiar with the nomination process for World Heritage inscription; will know what the limits of the law are with respect to cultural heritage protection; and will be able to assess the possibilities of human rights and other legal frameworks.


No prerequisites are required.


. Introduction
• Aims and purpose of the module
• Syllabus presentation
• Student assessment
• Bibliography and suggested sources

  1. Background and historical context
    • Cultural heritage protection in history
    • Early international efforts
    • Impact of World War I and II
    • Hague Convention 1954

  2. Art and restitution

• Post-war efforts at returning cultural objects
• UNESCO Convention 1970
• UNIDROIT Convention 1995
• Contentious cases (e.g. Elgin Marbles)

  1. UNESCO World Heritage Convention and international law

• Implementation, monitoring and compliance with 1972 Convention
• Whose heritage? communities, the state and the general interest of humanity as a whole
• How world heritage status affects international and domestic case law
• Implications of ‘outstanding universal value’, authenticity and integrity.

  1. Expanding heritage: other UNESCO

• Underwater cultural heritage
• Intangible heritage
• Cultural diversity
• European context

  1. Cultural Heritage and Armed Conflict

• Link btw destruction of cultural heritage and genocide
• Recent criminal cases in ICTY and ICJ concerning the Bosnian Genocide
• International criminal liability and ICC

  1. Cultural Rights in Human Rights Law

• Rights of minorities
• Rights of indigenous peoples
• Universal cultural rights
• Synergies and antagonisms

  1. International Environmental Law and Justice

• Roots of environmental movement
• UN conferences (Stockholm, Rio)
• Main principles (inter-generational equity, sustainable development etc.)
• Aarhus Convention 1998
• Environmental cases before human rights courts
• An international criminal court for the environment?

  1. Environment in the European context

• EU Law and Environmental Impact Assessment
• European Landscape Convention
• Public participation
• Contentious cases an national level

  1. Cultural Heritage in Comparative Law

• The Italian model: a conservative approach and its followers
• The “Nordic” model: a liberal approach and its followers
• European Union, EU law and EU approach to cultural goods policies

  1. Cultural heritage and Commons

• Heritage and the shifting conceptual boundaries of property
• Forms of property and forms of goods (public , private, co- ownership, commons) and effective management of heritage
• Actors and stakeholders: owners, users, individuals, communities
• New technologies, intellectual property, copyright and creative commons

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this module, the students will have an understanding of the role of law (especially international law) in the protection of cultural heritage and the environment. They will understand the legal context of their field of work and will be able to draw on what is relevant for their own research and/or practice.


Blake, Janet, ‘On Defining the Cultural Heritage.’ 49 International and Comparative Law Quarterly 1, 2000, pp. 61-85.
Chechi, Alessandro, ‘Evaluating the Establishment of an International Cultural Heritage Court’ in Art Antiquity and Law, April 2013, p.33 ff.
Francioni, Francesco, ‘Human Rights in an Environmental Horizon’, 21 (1) European Journal of International Law, 2010.
Francioni, F., ‘Culture, Heritage and Human Rights: An Introduction’, in Cultural Human Rights, Leiden: M. Nijhoff, 2008, pp. 1-15.
Francioni, F., ‘Beyond State Sovereignty: the Protection of Cultural Heritage as a
Shared Interest of Humanity’, Michigan Journal of International Law, 25, (2004) 4, pp. 1209-1228.
Gearty, Conor, ‘Do Human Rights Help or Hinder Environmental Protection?’, 1 Journal of Human Rights and the Environment 7, 2010.
Groni, C. UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Day of General Discussion on the Right to Take Part in Cultural Life, (Article 15 (1)a of the Covenant), 9 May 2008. E/C.12/40/3.
Lenzerini F. and Francioni, F., ‘The Destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan and International Law’, The European Journal of International Law, 14: 2003, pp. 619-651.
Lixinski, Lucas, ‘Luci e Ombre: The Bright and Dark Sides of International Heritage Law’, 22 Italian Yearbook of International Law, 2012, p. 133-153.
Lixinski, Lucas, ‘Selecting Heritage: The Interplay of Art, Law and Politics’, 22(1) European Journal of International Law, 2011, pp. 81-100.
Merryman, John Henry, ‘Cultural Property Internationalism’, 12 International Journal of Cultural Property, 2005, 11.
O’Keefe, Roger, ‘World Cultural Heritage: Obligations to the International Community as a Whole?’ 53 International and Comparative Law Quarterly 1, 2004, pp. 189-209.
Sax, J., ‘Heritage Preservation as Public Duty: The Abbe Grégoire and the Origins of an Idea’, 88 Michigan Law Review, 1990.
Schairer, S., ‘The Intersection of Human Rights and Cultural Property Issues under
International Law’, The Italian Yearbook of International Law, Vol. XI (2001), pp. 59-99.
Stamatopoulou, Elsa, ‘Monitoring Cultural Human Rights: The Claims of Culture on
Human Rights and the Response of Cultural Rights,’ 34 Human Rights
Quarterly, 2012, p. 1170.
Stavenhagen, R., “Cultural Rights: A Social Science Perspective” in A. Eide et al. (eds.), Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – A Textbook, Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 2001.
Strecker, Amy, ‘The Human Dimension to Landscape Protection in International Law’, in F. Lenzerini and S. Borelli (eds.), Cultural Heritage, Cultural Rights, Cultural Diversity: New Developments in International Law, Leiden, Boston; M. Nijhoff, 2012, pp. 327-347.
Strecker, Amy, “Pirates of the Mediterranean? The Case of the ‘Black Swan and its Implications for the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage in the Region”, in A. Vrdoljak and F. Francioni (eds.), Illicit Traffic of Cultural Heritage in the Mediterranean, Florence; Academy of European Law, 2009, pp. 59-73.
Vadi, Valentina, “Cultural Heritage and Investment Law: A Stormy Relationship?” International Journal of Cultural Property 15, 2008, pp. 1-24.


Forrest, Craig, International Law and the Protection of Cultural Heritage, New York: Routledge, 2010.
Egoz, Shelley (ed.), The Right to Landscape, London: Ashgate, 2011.
Eide, A., Krause, C and Rosas, A. (eds.), Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – A Textbook, Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 2001.
Francioni, Francesco and Lenzerini, Federico (eds.), The 1972 World Heritage Convention: A Commentary. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
Francioni, Francesco and Scheinin, Martin (eds.), Cultural Human Rights. Leiden; Boston: Martinus Nijhoff, 2008.
Lenzerini, Federico, and S. Borelli (eds.), Cultural Heritage, Cultural Rights, Cultural Diversity: New Developments in International Law, Leiden, Boston: M. Nijhoff, 2012.
Smith, Laurajane, The Uses of Heritage. London; New York: Routledge, 2006.
Lenzerini, F. and A. F. Vrdoljak (eds.), International Law for Common Goods: Normative Perspectives on Human Rights, Culture and Nature. Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2013.


At the end of course, the students must submit a written assignment on a topic provided by the lecturer (from a choice of three). They may choose between a practical and theoretical topic but the assignment must involve substantial personal research effort and reflection.

Lecturer's references

Antonino Abrami is former Judge of the Supreme Court of Cassation in Italy. He is acting president of IAES (International Academy of Environmental Sciences) and since 2011 professor emeritus at the University of Nova Gorica and professor at the Superior School for Magistracy in Florence, Italy.Since 2012 he is president of the Supranational Environmental Justice Foundation (SEJF). He is author of several publications in the fiels of environment and law and author of the book “Storia, Scienza e diritto Comunitario dell’Ambiente” (“History, Science and Community Environmental law”); He is promoter of the projects of institutional reform related to the establishment of the IECC (International Environmental Criminal Court) and the EECC (European Environmental Criminal Court); He is holder of the first “Jean Monnet Chair” on Community environmental law at the University of Urbino;