On the destruction of the State Museum of Fine Arts of the city of Shushi

On May 11, 2023, during his visit to the city of Shushi, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev attended the opening of a photo exhibition dedicated to Heydar Aliyev, organized in the former Museum of Fine Arts of Shushi (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cYEsqKwYTs&list=UULFCYhaH52lUEmfUjX-_OBAHg&index=17&ab_channel=%C4%B0CT%C4%B0MA%C4%B0TV ).

The video clearly demonstrates that the sculptures standing at the entrance to the museum are no longer there, and there are also no works exhibited in the halls of the museum. The condition and location of all the works that make up the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Shushi city remain unknown.

It can also be argued that the sculpture park of contemporary artists in the courtyard of the Shushi Museum of Fine Arts has been completely removed, and the fate of the works also remains unknown. This was already mentioned on August 15, 2021 in connection with the publication of satellite imagery by the “Caucasus Heritage Watch” team, which was referred to by the “Monitoring the Cultural Heritage of Artsakh” project team (Destruction of the “Park of Sculptures” of the State Museum of Fine Arts in Shushi).

Azerbaijan removed the entire collection of the State Museum of Fine Arts, both from the exhibition halls and from its territory. The Park of monumental sculptures in the courtyard of the museum has been completely demolished; according the video, two sculptures on either side of the entrance are missing. The current state and location of the rich collection of artistic, cultural and historical value remains unknown and is a cause of concern.

Our response

The destruction of the State Museum of Fine Arts in Shushi is another manifestation of Azerbaijani vandalism and a gross violation of a number of provisions of international conventions and declarations adopted by Azerbaijan itself.

According to Article 4 of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in Time of Armed Conflict, any acts of vandalism, theft, robbery, misappropriation, hostilities towards the cultural heritage are prohibited.

According to the first Hague Protocol of 1954, it is forbidden to destroy cultural or spiritual property in the occupied territories. The Second Hague Protocol of 1999 reaffirms this demand and, in accordance with Article 15, qualifies such an act as an international crime. Actions to destroy cultural property are also prohibited by the four Geneva Conventions and Protocols for the Protection of Victims of War, the laws and customs of war of August 12, 1949, as well as relevant UN resolutions and human rights treaties.