Cultural heritage represents an essential element defining the cultural identity of peoples. It includes not only tangible items of art and architecture, but also all intangible manifestations of a people’s distinctiveness, belief systems, ethics and moral values, ceremonies, sacred sites, human remains and any other spaces and expressions shaping the specificity of a human community. In many cases proper preservation and safeguarding of cultural heritage is an essential condition for ensuring effective enjoyment of internationally recognized human rights. Cultural-heritage-related human rights take the form of cultural rights; they include the right to freedom of religion, right to education, right to take part in cultural life, intellectual property rights and land rights of indigenous peoples. At the same time, virtually all human rights standards – even those which at a first sight may not appear as related to culture – may assume a cultural connotation, including, among others, the right to health, the right to food and even the right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment.
Federico Lenzerini is Professor of International Law and Human Rights at the Department of Law of the University of Siena. He is a consultant to UNESCO in the field of Protection of Cultural Heritage and Legal Counsel of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for international negotiations relative to the protection of cultural property. He is member of the International Law Association (ILA) and rapporteur of the ILA Committee on the Implementation of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. His main areas of research are human rights protection, rights of indigenous peoples, international protection of cultural heritage and cultural diversity.