Thursday, 28 January 2016

Progress on H.R. 1493, the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act

Elliot Engel
The so-called Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act (H.R.1493) was unanimously passed by the House on June 1, 2015. The details of the setting up the promised Coordinating Committee on International Cultural Property Protection which is sorely needed were altered. The bill mainly now deals with the specific issue of Syrian antiquities (explained as needed to "help curb funding for ISIS")
The bill would impose new import restrictions on cultural artifacts removed from Syria. Similar restrictions were enacted in 2004 with respect to Iraqi antiquities. The legislation would provide exceptions to allow artifacts to enter the United States for protection and restoration. Restrictions would remain in effect until the crisis in Syria is resolved and America is able to work with a future Syrian government to protect cultural property from trafficking under a bilateral agreement, in accordance with America’s national interests.
The bill also calls on the President to establish a new interagency body to enhance cooperation among the government agencies already working on cultural preservation and improves Congressional oversight of this issue.
The main alteration being reported (Tompa) is that the altered bill contains no reference to the  Department employee at the Assistant Secretary level or above to act as the U.S. 'Coordinator for International Cultural Property Protection' at the head of the CCICPP.

It appears that all that lobbyist sniping on behalf of the US no-questions-asked antiquities market against this legislation was money which could have been spent on promoting best practice poured down a cesspit. Dealer Wayne Sayles is furious that the collectors' voice was not heard and lawmakers in the US want to see the market become more accountable. Perhaps it is time to sack the lobbyists and get some people promoting true best practice instead of making excuses for bad.

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