The UK signed the Convention and First Protocol in 1954. Given concerns flagged by the MoD it did not ratify either the Convention or the 1954 Protocol. The 1999 Second Protocol, drafted with the assistance of UK experts, addressed the MoD’s concerns. However, no attempt was made to ratify the Convention and its Protocols.
In 2003, the UK co-led the invasion of Iraq not having ratified the Convention but claiming to work “within the spirit of the Convention”. The then Prime Minister reassured Parliament that, “we are fully committed to the protection of cultural property. That is not merely the Government’s position: we are also committed to that under the Geneva Conventions … we will do everything that we can to make sure that sites of cultural or religious significance are properly and fully protected” (Hansard, 19 March 2003, col. 940).
On 21 March 2003 the Secretary of State for Defence, in a letter to the President of the UK Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites confirmed that, “notwithstanding the fact that the [Hague] Convention is yet to be ratified the UK remains fully committed to the protection of cultural property in times of armed conflict in accordance with international law”. However, no British troops had orders to protect museums, libraries, archives, galleries, or archaeological sites in Iraq. This could be, and has been, interpreted as a failure to comply with IHL.