Sunday, 14 August 2016

Coiney Postulate and the REAL WORLD

Dr. Peter Tompa, "a very highly qualified and distinguished attorney", claimed to be "one of the world's leading legal experts on cultural property law" disagrees with the publication on the Federal Register of a Designated List of the 'Archaeological and Ethnological Material of Syria that describes the types of objects or categories of archaeological or ethnological material that are subject to import restrictions, if unlawfully removed from Syria on or after March 15th 2011'. Mr Tompa objects to the notion that Customs will conform to "its current extralegal practice of detaining, seizing,  and seeking the forfeiture of anything that looks remotely like it appears on the designated list and then require the importer to prove the negative". I asked him what he would see as the answer to the problems faced by US Customs, but he seems not really to understand how the real world works.
5 godz.5 godzin temu
Easy. Burden of proof on Customs. No repatriation to Assad. [...].
Let us imagine that central Europe has been hit by an epidemic of mad cow disease and the US decides to ban import of beef from Poland unless it carries an EU-1198 certificate (indicating that the batch of meat it accompanies was produced from animals tested and certified as free of this specific disease). A shipment from a Baltic port turns up in Baltimore which the import manifesto shows was sent from the German town of Gorlitz by the firm "Polbeef" (director Jacek Kowalsi) and has no  EU-1198 certificate. Mr Tompa is saying that if, at the time the meat is passing through the port, the US Customs cannot prove that the cows in the field (wherever) had Mad Cow Disease, then that meat should pass through onto the US market - that the burden is on the US Customs service to find out which farm or farms those cows were reared on, and then find out whether when they were alive they exhibited any symptoms of madness before they stop the shipment from crossing the international border. If they cannot prove that on the spot, the meat should be regarded as "innocent" and be sent to DC junior school kitchens to be served up to Tompa Junior. That is how US dealers say they want US Customs to 'protect' the US market from tainted goods.

This is an extension of the logic (I use the term loosely) of "one of the world's leading legal experts on cultural property law". Quite obviously the task of the Customs is to stop objects of questionable nature entering the US until such time as its nature is established.  This is a safeguard to protect US citizens and it works the same way with preventing tainted meat from entering the market (by withholding goods that cannot be documented as taint-free) as it does with tainted cultural property. I am sure that the dealers associations that have  paid "one of the world's leading legal experts on cultural property law" as their lobbyist do not want tainted material coming onto their segment of the market. But "burden of proof on Customs" is a pretty impractical (not to say lame) manner of preventing that. Any reputable dealer having material of Middle Eastern type which they have ascertained has not come from war-torn Syria before trying to ship it to the US will presumably have no qualms in showing that the material he or she is selling is demonstrably of licit origins. Otherwise they'd better not be selling it to the US. "Easy".

As for the 'repatriation' of objects likely to be from Syria when the exporters cannot show paperwork establishing other origins, then should they  go to Syria? I suppose the dealers Mr Tompa represents would like them to stay in the US. But then precisely combating neo-colonialist paternalism is what the 1970 UNESCO Convention, cultural property is to enable nations to work together not be a source of discord.  It is no surprise to anyone who can actually read the text that the focus of UNESCO thinking on cultural heritage issues is within and for the framework of nations (clue: the organization's name). Syria - like America - is a country with citizens, a state administration and a cultural heritage of its own, irrespective of the name of the man who currently heads its government and whether or not Barack Hussein Obama wants him to be there or not. The US has international obligations, and if it is not to lose even more influence than it has in the term of its 44th President, it really ought to see how it can show it is fulfilling them.

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