Letters: Back the world ban on looting

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The Independent Online

The March 2003 invasion of Iraq by a coalition led by the US and the UK failed to prevent the immediate and appalling looting of museums, libraries, archives and art galleries, followed by years of looting of archaeological sites across the country.

On 14 May 2004, the UK Government announced its intention to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, and its protocols of 1954 and 1999. Today, on the ninth anniversary of the invasion, it has still to honour this commitment. This is despite all-party support for ratification and recently reiterated support for ratification from the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The USA ratified the Convention in 2009. This leaves the UK as arguably the most significant military power, and certainly the only power with extensive military involvements abroad, not to have ratified it.

The Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (the ministry responsible for the issue) has recently informed us of his determination to find parliamentary time to pass the necessary legislation to enable the UK to ratify the Convention and its protocols. We applaud this initiative and urge the Government to support the Secretary of State and to pass the legislation before we reach the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

Peter Stone

Professor of Heritage Studies, Newcastle University

Nick Poole

Chair, International Council of Museums UK

Margaret Greeves

Chair, Collections Trust

Professor Sir Adam Roberts

President of the British Academy

Sir Simon Jenkins

Chair, National Trust

John S C Lewis

General Secretary and CEO, Society of Antiquaries

John Dolan

Chair of Council, The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals

Martin Taylor

Chair, Archives and Records Association (UK & Ireland)

Sue Cole

UK & Ireland Committee of the Blue Shield

Dr Mike Heyworth

Director, Council for British Archaeology

Peter Hinton

Chief Executive, Institute for Archaeologists

Mark Taylor

Director, Museums Association

Dr Eleanor Robson

Incoming Chair, British Institute for the Study of Iraq

Mike Williams

Secretary, the Nautical Archaeology Society

Jane Sillis

Director, Engage

Don't panic, it's only a minister giving 'advice'

Ministerial advice to drivers to stockpile fuel in anticipation of a tanker drivers' strike is truly bizarre. Assuming that we all need to carry on driving as much as before, all such stockpiling can achieve is to allow some people to sneak an advantage over everyone else if they happen to time their refuelling right, but it cannot make a difference to whether or not we collectively run out of fuel if the service stations are not replenished.

Much better advice would be to urge people to carefully consider the journeys they make and whether they can reduce the amount of fuel they actually need by travelling less or travelling smarter.

Jonathan Wallace

Newcastle upon Tyne

Filling a jerry can with petrol and storing it in your garage would be illegal. I suspect that I am not alone, therefore, in finding Francis Maude's advice to do just that a little puzzling. However, his response to a BBC reporter who brought this matter to his attention was more worrying. He said that such a statutory breach would be a "technicality".

It would be of great interest if the Government could advise us of the extent to which statutes in force can be ignored on the basis that they are merely technical impediments to an otherwise free-ranging criminal career.

Barry Butler


In support of the excellent Francis Maude, may I suggest that should one be unable to fit one's jerry cans of fuel in one's garage, one utilises one's duck house. The ruddy ducks (Oxyura jamaicensis) will just have to put up with the inconvenience.

Shane Malhotra

Maidstone, Kent

Isn't all this class sophistry getting out of hand? I possess neither a car, a garage, nor a jerry can. But I know what all three are and that plenty of people have them.

Phil Collins, of Tony Blair's old team, even said on Today that Francis Maude talks about "supper", which means "for most people" a cup of tea and a biscuit. How far do we go with this? On such a basis government people would be compelled to talk about the midday meal as "dinner".

Edward Thomas

Eastbourne, East Sussex

Following all the government advice, I now have a garage full of pasties and jerry cans, but there's a shortage of fuel to put into Granny's taxi ... or am I just confused by this un-coordinated approach ?

Adrian Jordan


I always suspected that Cameron couldn't cope in a crisis, but now he has proved he can't even cope in a non-crisis.

Geoff Cresswell


Waiting for a tax-free pasty

As the queue lengthens outside my world-renowned (imaginary) pasty shop, waiting for the freshly-baked pasties to cool to ambient temperature, I worry about exactly when the VAT liability goes. Is the tax man concerned with surface temperature, core temperature or mean temperature? When the shop door opens and lets in a cold draught, reducing the ambient temperature, does the VAT jump back on?

David Ridge

London N19

Amid all the hoo-ha about Cornish pasties, the virtues of the Bedfordshire clanger should not be overlooked. Like the pasty, intended to provide an easily portable meal for the working man, it contains a Cornish-like mixture of meat and veg at one end, and at the other end, jam roly-poly. The complete meal.

Roy Evans

Harpenden, Hertfordshire

The divinely chosen English

In response to Dairmaid MacCulloch's TV series on the understanding of the English as being a divinely chosen people, Tom Sutcliffe asks the interesting question as to why then we aren't all circumcised (19 March).

The answer is that some were: in particular the so-called "Christian Israelites" founded by the 19th-century "prophet" John Wroe, a significant apocalyptic movement of the 1830s.

Wroe's teaching followed on an older tradition of so-called "British Israelites", which, according to antiquarian historians of the 17th century, such as Aylett Sammes, traced the origins of the English to the lost tribes of Israel who were dispersed after the Flood to the land of Albion, which had been providentially endowed and set aside especially for them. This became a widely influential understanding of the Bible, and was a crucial link that MacCulloch missed.

Wroe, who also went to the trouble of learning Hebrew, identified Ashton-under-Lyne in Lancashire as the New Jerusalem or heavenly Zion, and tried to persuade the Jews of neighbouring Manchester of this, but without much success. Not long after this the secular "prophet" Chaim Weizmann visited Manchester with a different version of Zionism, which seems to have been more attractive.

Dominic Kirkham


The liberty to be nasty on Twitter

It was most distressing to see a young student appearing in the dock in tears and then led away to be imprisoned for remarks he made over the internet when drunk.

This country claims to be fighting for freedom in Libya and Afghanistan. Why should we bother about horrible remarks made by somebody over the internet when their was a vast outpouring of sympathy for the football player who collapsed with a heart attack during the game?

Bigots should be exposed as bigots over the internet, not imprisoned. The internet means nothing if it does not allow the free flow of information, opinion and ideas, no matter how wrong or nasty.

Peter J Brown


We have known for a very long time that too much alcohol turns people into idiots. We have discovered much more recently that access to Twitter turns people into idiots. Combine the two and the result is not just addition but multiplication of the idiocy. So perhaps it ought to become a criminal offence to use Twitter while under the influence.

Andrew Belsey

Whitstable, Kent

Asbestos victims wait for justice

Asbestos victims affected by the Supreme Court's judgment (leading article, 29 March) are at least fortunate enough to have traced the insurers of the employers who exposed them to the deadly dust. Hundreds of other victims cannot, as records have been lost or destroyed. These vulnerable people are denied the compensation they need to see them through their remaining days.

Victims and their families have been waiting for nearly two years for the Government to act on plans for an insurance fund of last resort. The need for action is urgent, as suffering people are dying without receiving justice. Sick and dying workers who are unable to make a claim are, in effect, subsidising the insurance companies which have already taken premiums but simply cannot be found.

Deborah Evans

Chief Executive, Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, Nottingham

Cancer warning

Jeremy Laurance says, in his report on the link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer (29 March), that the disease "affects only one sex". Breast cancer may be rare among men but it's certainly far from impossible and it would be tragic if a man ignored symptoms because he thought it was exclusively "a woman's disease".

Beverley Thompson

Milton Keynes

Useless man

Further to the correspondence on useless objects, in the book Don't Cry for Me, Sergeant-Major, Robert McGowan and Jeremy Hands report a squaddie in the Falklands saying: "There goes the most useless thing in the British Army; a Rupert [officer] with a map."

Mike Cordery

Garrucha, Almería, Spain


Oh dear! "Bit thin, not enough of a creamy head". Yes, indeed, real ale, and precisely "why we should all say cheers to Adnams". More froth in Simon English's Outlook (29 March) than is usually the case.

Nick Eastwell

London SE10

Two-way deal

If the problem is that killing an unarmed teenager isn't a crime in the US, why can't we extradite George Zimmerman and try him in this country?

T Just

Oban, Argyll