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NEWSLETTER NOVEMBER 2016

 

Highlights for November include the news that Senator Mark Kirk, sponsor of the new TAAR Bill, lost his seat in the US election, which means the Antiquities Coalition will have to find a new sponsor. Although they are likely to do so, the President Elect’s promise to drain the swamp of Washington politics to rid it of big money could truncate the influence of Goldman Sachs in this issue. At the moment, however, it remains no more than a possibility. There is also some hope of support for the trade from elsewhere in the Senate.

 

On a more worrying note, Paris Match has published an extensive article detailing its investigation into illicit material from Syria entering the Belgian market, specifically the Sablons district of Brussels. The article also carries details of two 4500-year-old plaques from Syria seized from Phoenix Ancient Art by the Belgian customs last January when they were offered at BRAFA. It appears that the plaques may have been illegally exported from their country of origin. Phoenix have not commented. However, Paris Match have used this example to look at Phoenix’s activities further and conclude that the episode reflects badly on the wider trade. IADAA’s analysis of this piece is that it is well researched and written but is flawed in its use of a series of debunked statistics to set the scene at the beginning of the article. Nonetheless, whether the accusations against Phoenix stand up or not, the exposé is impressive and certainly does not help the image of the trade.

Although we do not have a link to the article, pdfs are available from Ivan or Vincent on request.

 

IADAA members should now have been alerted to the European Union consultation on tighter regulations linked to the movement of antiquities. IADAA has worked with various other trade organisations around Europe to view what we argued was a highly unsuitable survey document amended and shortened. This has now been done to some extent, but remaining questions in the survey leave us sceptical about how well those conducting the survey understand the trade and the issues involved.

However, it is important that members respond. IADAA’s view is that respondents should not answer questions that appear loaded, ridiculous or impossible to answer in an informed way. Instead, the advice is to answer the simple, more straightforward questions and add a comment about how inappropriate the other questions are and how they show a lack of understanding of the issues at hand and of the trade.

 

The passage of the UK’s Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill has reached the Committee stage in the House of Commons, which is when any important amendments can be added. The Antiquities Dealers’ Association, some of whose members are also IADAA members, has submitted evidence for the Committee to consider, as has the British Art Market Federation and the largest two dealer associations in the country, LAPADA and the BADA, whose President, Lady Borwick, is a Member of Parliament, sits on the Committee and has tabled the most important amendment of all. If the Bill is adopted without alteration, dealers will risk prosecution, with a prison term of up to seven years, for dealing in cultural property illegally exported from an occupied country, even when they have fulfilled their due diligence obligations and have acted in good faith, without any criminal intent, believing the items in question to be on the market legally. The amendment asks for the terms of liability to be altered so that liability is dependent on criminal intent.

The ADA has asked for clarification on how the UK Government interprets the definition of cultural property in the Bill (it uses the 1954 Hague Convention definition, which appears to embrace all cultural art and objects no matter how important). The Bill also does not define due diligence, codes of conduct or even give a list of occupied countries, without all of which the trade will face unacceptable risk under the law. Precedents set in the UK or elsewhere are often used to influence law making within other jurisdictions, so what happens here may prove significant to us all.

 

Finally, as noted below, the US has now signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Egypt that will lead to further restrictions on the import of Egyptian artefacts dating to between the sixth century BC and 1517 AD.

 

House Homeland Security Committee Releases Report on ISIS Financing

Gates of Nineveh blog: October 14: The previous newsletter missed this blog by the excellent Christopher Jones, which echoes IADAA’s own analysis of the Cash to Chaos report, the latter now being promoted on the Antiquities Coalition’s Home Page. The good news is that Peter Tompa has brought both this article and Ivan Macquisten’s analysis to the attention of Senator Mark Kirk, who is sponsoring the new US TAAR Bill and whom Peter and Randall Hixenbaugh met recently. Hopefully, they will help mitigate any potential damage that the report might do during the passage of the Bill.

http://goo.gl/lzxqW8

 

The Global War Against Collectors of Ancient Coins

Coin Week: October 27: This extensive and well-footnoted article by Mike Markowitz summarises the widespread campaign to use the looting crisis at various spots around the world to criminalise the private ownership of antiquities, and explains how coins are affected by this.

http://goo.gl/XerJ2o

 

Corruption central: The plundering of Egypt's relics

Middle East Eye: October 28: This extremely important article argues that beneath all the headlines, internal corruption and buck passing within Egypt are greatly blame for the parlous state the nation now finds itself in over antiquities. Focusing on the work of archaeologist Sally Soliman, the article looks at one example she gives of this.

“Soliman gives one particularly egregious example from 2010. Somehow, in the middle of the night, thieves made off with a large part of the Qani Bey mosque, specifically, the elevated platform from which the imam addresses worshippers.

“Too small to notice? Weighing 100 kilos and ‘’over five meters high’, the subsection should have drawn attention. Obviously, many had to look the other way for this to happen. To this day, the criminals are on the lam.

“So who is responsible? When Soliman asked, she was told that security detail at the mosque is divided "8am-3pm the Ministry of Endowment and 3pm-8am by the Ministry of Antiquities". Asking questions like these of officials in high places in the Ministry of Antiquities and the Ministry of Trust and Endowment has made her persona non grata.

“Passing the buck is a national sport and these two ministries are world-class performers in this farcical exercise. Imagine Laurel and Hardy pointing fingers at one another and you quickly piece together the puzzle.”

The article continues with other examples of incompetence and complacency.

It also explains that a significant factor is the demand for building projects. According to an antiquities inspector named only as Mr S to protect him: "No one can build unless antiquities have been removed from the land, so some money and a nice kebab dinner takes care of that problem.”

It is also enlightening as to where the antiquities end up, and on Egypt’s inability to protect its own sites:

“Some of the stolen items went to Europe and the US, but much of the Islamic art found its way to the neighbouring Gulf region. A lion’s share winds up in private collections in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. But without hard facts at hand, Egypt cannot hope to retrieve the treasure trafficked under radar to their new private owners.

“Without trained staff to look after them, no less damaging is the abandonment of many antiquity sites. “Without tourism,” officials tell Egyptologists like Soliman, “there is no money.” Privately, one official even told her, “May some of these artifacts disappear so we have less on our shoulders.””

Finally, it echoes IADAA’s own comments, made only last month on the Toledo Blade news website after the Toledo Museum sale, that Egypt’s real focus is about using antiquities to generate revenue, not about national heritage.

“Egypt is in an unenviable economic hole. The country’s income from tourism, which reached over $12.5bn in 2010, had fallen to $5.9bn by 2013.

The return of that missing revenue would do wonders for an economy that is losing allies in the all-important Gulf, with Saudia Arabia pulling back so much that Sisi, on Twitter earlier this week, said "enough dependence on our Arab brothers".

http://goo.gl/fLP5b1

 

Egypt bans cooperation with Toledo Museum over antiquities’ sale

Middle East Monitor: November 1: Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities has banned any cooperation with Toledo Museum of Art in America, after the Ohio-based institution held auctions to sell ancient Egyptian artefacts. The ban follows the recent sale of a number of artefacts, which the ministry says “violates the code of ethics of the International Council of Museums (ICOM)”, although it does not explain how it believes this happened.

The ministry confirms it continues to try to prevent such sales and signed a number of bilateral agreements last year with several countries for the repatriation of all artefacts for which Egypt is able to provide proof of affiliation to Egyptian culture and history. This does not, however, explain whether such a returns policy covers only stolen, looted or illegally exported items. It would appear also to cover items legitimately held elsewhere.

Ivan Macquisten has left the following comment on the article:

“Does this mean that Egypt is even claiming artefacts legitimately exported and held overseas? Even those it sold legitimately by the Egyptian Government, its representatives and licensed dealers over many decades in the 20th century? How has the Toledo Museum broken the ICOM code of ethics? This is a serious allegation, so the ministry has a duty to explain. Its credibility is at stake here.”

Ivan has also written a letter to the Art Newspaper questioning the lack of balance and analysis in its coverage of this story and suggesting it investigates Egypt’s and Cyprus’s reasons for complaining, which are not reported.

http://goo.gl/Us6QJN

 

Senate proposed Terrorism Art and Antiquity Revenue Protection Act of 2016

GDLSK: November 2: Law firm’s (that employs James McAndrew) brief analysis of the Bill: “The proposed legislation is intended to prevent ISIS stolen antiquities from being trafficked into the United States. However, as written, the new law would have broad impact on the criminal enforcement of all cultural property regardless of origin.” This is especially true considering the low value threshold of only $50 for objects affected.

http://goo.gl/pXN8iL

 

Antiquities Ministry cuts price of Luxor tourist passes, opens more tombs

Egypt Independent: November 3: Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anany has announced a reduction in the price of the Luxor Pass, which gives access to ancient monuments in the city and the surrounding area. The price has been cut from $270 to $200, and from $135 to $100 for foreign students. The move is an attempt to attract tourists to Egypt, while helping fund the ministry's work at restoring tombs and building museums, he said. This article reinforced once again that the primary objective for the Egyptians in the fight over antiquities is to use them to revive tourism revenues.

http://goo.gl/d74Bbl

 

Only a Fraction of Mexico's Stolen Cultural Antiquities Are Recovered

InSight Crime: November 3: Mexico has performed poorly in recovering looted antiquities, reports the article. “There are deficiencies in both the registration of these thefts and a lack of coordination among the authorities to preserve the items.”

It goes on detail an undercover investigation, but again highlights the lack of responsibility taken by the Government and the failure of Mexico to abide by Article 5 of the UNESCO Convention, of which it is a signatory.

“Mexico does not know with any certainty how many or what types of objects are in the repository of its cultural heritage. There is not a detailed record of artifacts of historical value (including sacred art) that exists in the country.”

http://goo.gl/xVeO9O

 

Cultural property bill threatens London’s world art market

The Times: November 3: Sir Edward Garnier MP QC sets out an impressive argument as to why elements of the new Bill will ‘stultify’ the art market in the UK. Having been briefed by the ADA, Sir Edward understands the concerns over the mens rea aspect of the Bill, which effectively ignores the need for criminal intent in dealing in looted cultural property, so that even those acting innocently could be prosecuted.

As even those who have completed correct Due Diligence checks could be at risk, he argues that the market would simply avoid sales of objects that might be legally on the market. The Government’s refusal to supply a list of occupied territories that might qualify for protection under the Bill exacerbates the risk even further, he adds. A further concern not quoted in the article, but which Sir Edward has already raised in parliament, is the lack of clarity over how the UK Government interprets the definition of Cultural property as described by the Hague Convention 1954, which the Bill adopts.

http://goo.gl/ZCVYnx

 

China cracks down on illegal trade of cultural artefacts

The Art Newspaper: November 4: China has tightened its laws banning mainland auction houses from selling artefacts looted from the country. The rules replace a temporary order applied in 2003, which banned the auction of cultural relics “with disputes regarding their right of disposition”, according to a report in the South China Morning Post. The new clause stipulates that auction houses on mainland China cannot sell “historically looted Chinese relics”.

The Chinese government also now has priority in buying such objects, according to the report. Under the new rules, state-owned collection agencies have the right to acquire for a set price artefacts that do legally make it to auction. Other Chinese artefacts that are banned from being auctioned include those owned by government sectors, the military and private museums.

http://goo.gl/NXQpw6

 

Illicit trafficking in cultural goods including antiquities and works of art

Europol: November 6: This web search locates the five items found relating to this topic on Europol’s website, which date back to January 2012. It includes the 2015 Europol Review, which focuses on areas such as terrorism, especially ISIS, illegal migration, sexual exploitation, fraud, cyber crime and drugs trafficking, but makes no mention of antiquities or cultural property looting and smuggling.

http://goo.gl/dXK7Qu

 

Turkish government shuts down important archaeological dig, apparently to punish Austria

Science: September 6: Thanks to Vincent Geerling for highlighting this September article on how governments may use access to archaeological sites as a bargaining chip in international relations.

http://goo.gl/rsENXO

 

La restitution d’un sarcophage à la Turquie est validée

Tribune de Genève: May 11: Thanks also to Vincent and Rupert Wace for highlighting this article about the return of a Roman marble sarcophagus to Turkey from the Aboutaam brothers at the behest of Geneva courts.

http://goo.gl/Xqh43S

 

Minister: Every day we feel consequences of Armenian occupation

Azernews: November 10: As the UK government fails to provide a list of occupied countries to help guide the trade in keeping to the law, this news report indicates that Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan, should be on the list. Azerbaijan feels the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh not only by loss of lands, Minister of Culture and Tourism Abulfas Garayev said while addressing a scientific conference “Karabakh: history and heritage” in Baku on November 10.

“Every day we are witnessing the Armenian aggressive policy at international events, in the Internet space and press, as well as in cuisine,” the minister noted. “Armenians continue to infringe on the culture, historical monuments, music and cuisine of Azerbaijan”.

http://goo.gl/KQTbHL

 

Cyprus police coordinated Europe-wide Pandora operation to hunt down missing antiquities

Cyprus Mail: November 12: The island’s police force said on Saturday that they had been in charge of coordinating the Europe-wide police operation codename ‘Pandora’ into the trafficking of cultural goods which was carried out over the last few days.

Police say they conducted a total of 44 searches of homes and premises in various districts to detect illegally held antiquities and metal detectors. During these investigations, a total of 1383 artefacts along with 13 metal detectors were seized.

“As part of EU actions for combating organised and serious international crime, a common European police operation called ‘Pandora’ was held between November 7 and 11, 2016,” a statement said.

“The aim of the operation, which was organised by Europol, was to combat theft and illegal trafficking of cultural goods. Twenty member states of the European Union, Unesco, the general secretariat of Interpol and the United States took part. Cyprus, together with Spain, was the coordinator of the operation across Europe.”

Although details are given of finds in Cyprus, none are given about the results of the operation elsewhere.

http://goo.gl/FIqSXD

 

National Treasure

Legislation: A German law restricting the export and sale of art is threatening one of the country’s most adventurous new private museums

Financial Times Collecting Supplement: November 12: This article gives an overview of the law change, saying critics “fear a damaging effect on prices, as any works banned from leaving Germany will be consigned to country’s much smaller internal art market”.

Interviews with one or two market transport operators note little impact so far, but they are “simply waiting to see what will happen. However, the article also notes that “one new venture under threat” is the plan to display a major private art collection at the newly restored Schloss Derneburg near Hannover. British hedge fund manager Andrew Hall and his Christine, who are based in New York, have substantial holdings of art by George Baselitz, Gerhard Richter, Anselm Kiefer and Joseph Beuys, as well as works by Andy Warhol. All of this has been on show – and available to public view – in Vermont since 2007, but the aim was to move it to the schloss. Now, however, the new German law has forced a rethink and the plan is now to expand the US programme and other activity “outside of Germany”.

“We plan to show art at Derneburg – but it could well be work that is not from the Hall or Hall Art Foundation collections because of the new law,” said the Foundation’s director, Maryse Brand.

http://goo.gl/EtwyjH

 

The top-secret operation to save Syria’s treasures of antiquity

The Sunday Telegraph: November 13: Interview with Dr Maamoun Abdulkarim, the general director of Syria’s antiquities agency, who in The Art Newspaper on August 24 made the same claims: that most of Palmyra’s treasured were concealed and saved before ISISI could get their hands on them; that ISIS had found far fewer artefacts than they had hoped and so were peddling a far greater number of fakes – 70% of all items being smuggled out of Syria via Lebanon and Turkey are fakes, he says – and that some of the fakes are very good, while others are easy to identify. He also says that 80% of Palmyra’s ruins are in good shape but it might take five years to rebuild. He also claims that more than 90% of archaeological sites in Syria, including Krak de Chevalier, are now safe.

http://goo.gl/GValA5

 

Treasures worth billions ‘hidden in free ports to fund Isis’

i News: November 13: This is an article where the content does not stand up to the hype of the headline. Using the Symes seizures from the Geneva Freeport two years ago, the reporter extrapolates a number of assumptions, admitting to have no evidence to support any of them. “…the suspected use of the Geneva Free Ports and dozens of similar facilities in locations from Luxembourg to Beijing to stash the ill-gotten gains of criminals and corrupt middlemen remains the focus of international alarm,” he states.

He also referred to recent unsubstantiated claims by the French finance minister, Michel Sapin – who has made equally unsubstantiated claims before – that “there was a risk that they were being used as conduit for the sale of antiquities stolen from Syria and Iraq to fund Isis”.

He reports another unsubstantiated claim – and one that is clearly wildly over exaggerated: “Archaeologists estimate that the terror group is profiting to the tune of £250m a year from looted Syrian and Iraqi antiquities passing through Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan and onwards to the global market.”

He at least goes on to report what the Freeports themselves have done and had to say about Sapin’s claims: “…those who operate the free ports are not prepared to take lying down the complaints that they are providing secure shelter to the assets of such nefarious players in the global art market as the butchers Islamic State.

The managers of Geneva Free Ports issued a forceful rebuttal to Mr Sapin’s claims, describing them as ‘simply unacceptable’ and accusing him of ignoring a new regime brought in by both the facility and the Swiss authorities earlier this year.

The new rules include a compulsory inspection of all antiquities entering the warehouses and the accreditation of all dealers and companies depositing art works as well as a requirement to identity the final ‘beneficial owner’.

In order to overcome a shortfall in customs officials employed by the state, the company has drafted in international audit company KPMG to carry out ‘complete inspections’ of any cargo considered potentially suspicious.”

http://goo.gl/yzK8i0

 

Antiquities mystery solved: Swiss return stolen artifact to Egypt

Africa Times: November 14: An ancient stele stolen from an Egyptian temple 30 years ago is being returned after turning up during a customs control inventory check in Geneva.

Most interestingly, this article reaffirms the Egyptian policy of guilty until proven innocent, stating: “Egypt claims ownership in perpetuity of all archaeological finds in the nation, regardless of when they were discovered, unless there is a clear record of legal sale or other transfer supporting the holder’s legitimate claim.”

http://goo.gl/Giyq6Y

 

Antiquities agency on defensive as ‘ancient church bulldozed’

The Jordan Times: November 14: One story, two interpretations.

Reports recently circulated on social media of a Byzantine archaeological site being allegedly bulldozed, with the permission of the authorities, outraged concerned individuals and put authorities on the defensive.

The Department of Antiquities (DoA) denied wrongdoing, claiming that the bulldozer belonged to the landowner and the move was a tactic to pressure the DoA into buying the land and giving it national monument status so no one would build on it.

However, a local architect disputed this, saying that the DoA, which records show owns two thirds of the site, was moving archaeological findings from the site that included a mosaic floor and walls to warehouses elsewhere. He cited insiders at the DoA who confirmed his story and his claims were supported by a veteran archaeologist.

University of Jordan Professor Lutfi Khalil said that the privately owned land in question contained a mosaic floor and walls that were still standing. He said he had learnt that while the owners were digging to construct a residential building, they stumbled upon the remains of a mosaic church floor and informed the officials.

They asked a price for the land that the department could not afford, the professor claimed. The DoA, he said, decided to move the mosaic floor and the other items found on site (which freed them from having to buy it).

“In my opinion, maintaining cultural heritage and keeping it where it is found is important and this is the responsibility of the department,” said the academic.

http://goo.gl/GryBpb

 

UK should lead on heritage protection

The Guardian: November 14: A letter signed by a number of influential archaeologists, academics and politicians praising the progress in the UK parliament of the Cultural Property [Armed Conflicts] Bill, which went to the Committee stage the following day. A summary of the state of the Bill and what it means for the trade appears at the top of this newsletter. Note: Julian Radcliffe of the art Loss Register is among the signatories.

http://goo.gl/s4FbSo

 

Oxford Union hosts debate on repatriation of Arab antiquities acquired during colonial rule

Ahram Online: November 17: The prestigious debate society hosted students and art historians from Europe and the Middle East; those arguing for the return of artefacts to their countries of origin won the debate with 165 votes to 106.

However, the most revealing admission came from Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass, the former Egyptian Minister of Antiquities, who recently targeted the Toledo Museum in Ohio for selling off surplus artefacts at auction, calling for UNESCO and ICOM sanctions and banning co-operation by the Egyptian state.

In the OU, Hawass is reported as noting that 70 percent of the artefacts on display at international museums left Egypt legally when the country observed a law that enabled foreign archaeological missions to divide artefacts from their discoveries with Egypt. He added that Egyptian artefacts were legally put on sale at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir until the issuing of law 117 in 1983, which prohibited such activity.

During the debate, Hawass argued that 30 percent of the artefacts on display at international museums were illegally smuggled out of Egypt and other Arab countries. The most notable of these are the bust of Queen Nefertiti which is now on display at the Egyptian Museum in Berlin and the Rosetta Stone, now on display at the British Museum in London.

"During my tenure as secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, I asked for the return of both artefacts, because the Nefertiti bust travelled to Germany in 1913 illegally. I presented all the evidence that confirms its illegal smuggling," Hawass told Ahram Online, adding that the same applies to the Rosetta stone which was taken by the French when they invaded Egypt and given to the British.

With the Egyptians’ policy of insisting that anything should be considered illegally exported or stolen unless it can be shown otherwise, it would be interesting to hear whether Hawass considers the Toledo Museum artefacts to have been sold legitimately or not.

http://goo.gl/oa6Ufd

 

Antiquities Coalition Launches New Think Tank Promoting Innovative Solutions To Combat Cultural Racketeering

Yahoo News (PR Newswire): November 18: This new think tanks is focused on publishing policy briefs to be picked up by Congress, reinforcing its other measures. The first paper gives a flavor of what they intend: "How to End Impunity for Antiquities Traffickers: Assemble a Cultural Heritage Crimes Prosecution Team" (https://theantiquitiescoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/PolicyBrief1.pdf).

Its chief proposal is for the Department of Justice to appoint special prosecutors at the US Attorneys’ offices to investigate and prosecute offences. It also proposes that a new Cultural Heritage Crimes office be established.

It doesn’t help that the author, Rick St Hilaire, starts the paper with an attack on the “opaque art and antiquities market”, using the 2012 Basel Institute Report and the August 26, 2015 FBI warning as evidence of a dishonest market, neither of which actually provided an evidence of such. The BI quotes Bonnie Magness-Gardiner as saying: “We now have credible reports that U.S. persons have been offered cultural property that appears to have been removed from Syria and Iraq recently.” However, when challenged on this by Vincent Geerling earlier this year, she was unable to back up the claim.

Particularly worrying is St Hilaire’s argument that the authorities are letting the lack of evidence get in the way of prosecutions; “Too many conversations focused on evidentiary barriers to convictions, rather than solutions…”.

http://goo.gl/NCUwAf

 

UAE, France to unite to safeguard endangered cultural heritage

GDN Online: November 21: UAE and France have revealed plans for a new international partnership aimed at protecting cultural heritage during armed conflicts.

This initiative will be launched by His Highness Shaikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and François Hollande, President of France at the conference titled 'Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage'.

The conference, which will be held under the patronage of UNESCO, will take place on December 2 and 3, 2016 at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi.

The conference’s agenda will focus on capacity building for professionals in conflict areas and improving legal and funding mechanisms to facilitate emergency protection of heritage sites as well as post-conflict rehabilitation.

On the positive front, this appears to be some sort of commitment on the UAE’s part to honour Article 5 of the UNESCO Convention, aimed at protecting archaeological sites. On the negative front, expect more measures that, while aimed at tackling looting, also carry the potential to damage legitimate trade.

http://goo.gl/RwVnqW

 

Egyptian antiquities again offered for sale in London

EgyptIndependent.com: November 23: The curious thing about this article is that it does not claim that Christie’s are offering these items illegally. Instead, it states: “Shaaban Abdel Gawad, head of the department, said that the Foreign Ministry and Egyptian embassy in London have geared up efforts to stop the sale of the Egyptian antiquities in the auction. He added that if it is proven that the artifacts were taken out of Egypt illegally, Interpol has vowed to restitute them.”

So it seems that the Egyptian government is now openly admitting that it will attempt to stop even legal sales.

http://goo.gl/mhfn2F

 

Trade associations seek to amend bill in Parliament to ‘protect’ legitimate art market

Politicians and trade bodies have raised further concerns over how a new Cultural Property Bill could impact the art market

Antiques Trade Gazette: November 25: This article focuses on the efforts of associations, including the Antiquities Dealers’ Association, to prevent the new Cultural Property [Armed Conflicts] Bill, which is passing through the UK parliament, from damaging trade. A more detailed version of this article appeared in the print version of the magazine.

The associations’ efforts succeeded in limiting the British Government’s interpretation of the definition of cultural property under the 1954 Hague Convention to objects “of great importance to the cultural heritage of every people”, rather than embracing all works of art. However, the biggest concern is the proposal to remove the need for dishonest intent in prosecutions of dealers, collectors and auction houses. The current wording allows for them to be prosecuted if they deal in objects “knowing or having reason to believe” that they might have been exported illegally from their country of origin. Under these circumstances, a dealer who is alerted to the possibility of a problem, but finds no proof of wrongdoing on thorough investigation, could still be prosecuted if they go ahead with the transaction in honest good faith and it later turns out that the item was indeed illegally exported. With such a threat hanging over the trade, the associations argue that most dealers, collectors and auction houses would simply avoid handling anything where there was the slightest suspicion, however unfounded.

Proposals now before the government call for the wording to be changed to “knowing or suspecting” or “knowing or believing”, which would restore the element of dishonest intent as a prerequisite for prosecution. As things stand, the associations are not hopeful of a change because of the determination of the government, academics and archaeologists to push through the measures unchanged. They fear that amendments would delay the legislation, resulting in the Bill falling before the end of the parliamentary session. The government is also eager for the UK to be the first member of the UN Security Council to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention and its two protocols.

http://goo.gl/y0YUxn

 

Secretary Kerry Signs Cultural Property Protection Agreement With Egypt

US Department of State: November 29: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry signed a landmark bilateral Memorandum of Understanding on cultural property protection on Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at the U.S. Department of State.

This is the first cultural property protection agreement between the United States and a country in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Under the agreement, the United States will impose import restrictions on archaeological material representing Egypt’s cultural heritage dating from 5200 B.C. through to 1517 A.D. Restrictions are intended to reduce the incentive for pillage and trafficking and are one of the many ways the United States is fighting the global market in illegal antiquities.

http://goo.gl/koKCEw

 

Why ratifying the Hague Convention matters

After years of delay, the UK government is on track to become a world leader in wartime heritage protection

The Art Newspaper: November 29: An article by Peter Stone, UNESCO Chair in Cultural Property Protection and Peace at the School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University, explaining why the Cultural Property [Armed Conflicts] Bill passing through the UK parliament is so important. The article itself is fairly straightforward, although it claims that there has been little or serious opposition to the Bill, which is untrue bearing in mind the trade’s extremely serious concerns about elements of it.

Stone was instrumental in helping write the bill and is due to play a big part in Blue Shield, the initiative to identify and protect monuments as part of the commitment to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention and its two protocols.

The ADA and other British trade associations continue the fight to have the bill amended before it passes into law. However, the Government is against any amendments because any delay could prove fatal for the bill and refuses to believe that it poses any real risk to the trade.

http://goo.gl/broRMM

 
 

Gulf gathering aims to protect endangered heritage around the world

Global Times: November 30: Experts and government delegates from around the world will gather in the Gulf on December 2, seeking to build a global alliance to protect cultural heritage threatened by extremism and conflict.

France and the United Arab Emirates are leading the initiative at a conference in Abu Dhabi to establish an international partnership that could respond to dangers such as Islamic State group jihadists rampaging through ancient sites in Iraq and Syria.

The proposed partnership would include governments, public institutions, private groups, non-governmental organizations and experts.

The gathering will include French President Francois Hollande, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and representatives of some 40 nations.

It comes "in response to the growing threats to some of the world's most important cultural resources arising from sustained periods of armed conflicts, acts of terrorism and illicit trafficking of cultural property," organizers said.

Roundtable forums will focus on three themes - prevention, emergency protection and post-conflict rehabilitation.

The conference aims to create an international Geneva-based fund of $100 million, according to French authorities behind the initiative.

http://goo.gl/Iv6NBo

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