Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Washington: "ISIS Looting Cultural Artifacts on ‘Unprecedented Scale"

Washington says
Washington, 'ISIS Looting and Destroying Cultural Artifacts on ‘Unprecedented Scale’' Apr 19 2016
The Financial Services Task Force to Investigate Terror Financing held a hearing today to examine the best ways to counter the plunder and sale of priceless cultural antiquities by Islamic State terrorists. Such looting is occurring on an “unprecedented scale” and is generating significant revenue for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, the United Nations has warned. Task Force Chairman Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA) said, “The United States must do its part in curbing the demand for these cultural and artistic pieces by taking another look at customer due diligence and improving coordination with our international partners. This is a revenue stream exploited by illicit actors around the world and it cannot continue unabated.”Although the precise amount is unknown, [...] The U.S. has estimated that ISIS has earned “several million dollars” from antiquities sales since mid-2014.
It is untrue that the scale of destruction of monuments by ISIL is unprecedented. I live in Warsaw. This text is full of the same old staple tropes which have not changed now for yonks with the usual  wildly diverging guestimates of the "numbers". As for "taking another look at due diligence" Well, when are they going to stop talking and get around to some doing? Article 4(4) of the 1995 Unidroit Convention - Unidroit Convention made twenty years ago a set of recommendations for the exercise of due diligence in transactions involving cultural material. And since then a lot has happened. Al lot, that is, apart from this kind of due diligence becoming standard practice in the modern antiquities trade. If these standards had been consistently applied for even the last decade, we would not be sitting around discussing whether and how much ISIL is making money from illicit antiquities sales. It is not exactly rocket science. And anyway, why "customer" due diligence? Don't the dealers have anything to do with it? The  "greedy foreign dealers and collectors taking advantage of the mayhem [who] feel they have licence to steal antiquities away".  Twenty years on, America - one of the biggest global antiquities markets - gets around to setting up a so-called "task force". Meanwhile it is not just in Syria and Iraq that huge numbers of archaeological sites and monuments have been devastated to produce hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of portable antiquities for twenty years worth of no-questions asked collecting.

Furthermore in light of "the unabated continuance of the exploitation of the antiquities revenue stream exploited by illicit actors around the world", the United States has MOUs with only 15 of the countries affected. More than ninety percent of countries have no such agreement.

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