Thursday, 11 November 2010

ARCA Panel at the 2010 American Society of Criminology 11/18

Parts of the American Society of Criminology Meeting in San Francisco look really interesting, there will be a panel on "Cultural Property Crime" but of more interest to me is that an ARCA panel discussion here is looking exclusively at the problem of antiquities. There are four presentations and then a panel discussion led by Derek Fincham.

Yasmeen del Rosario Hussain will be looking at "Cultural Property and International Relations: implications in dialogue". She will stress the importance of international co-operation and support in the struggle against the removal of cultural property from other states and the potential of dialogue on cultural property to impact international relations and increase cultural understanding ("prevent antiquities trafficking, alter political maneuvers, and build capacity"). This seems guaranteed to get the no-questions-asked dealers' lobby dragging out their "nationalism vs. internationalism" jibes again - but I wonder how an "internationalism" based on dealers making money from selling looted artefacts relates to internationalism of cultural co-operation?

Of more direct interest to some of the themes of discussion here recently will be
Derek Fincham's presentation:"The Difficulty in Using Criminal Offences to Police the Antiquities Trade". The abstract tells us:
There has been a dramatic increase in recent years in the investigation and prosecution of individuals connected to the trade in stolen and illegally excavated antiquities, particularly in the United States. The antiquities trade routinely fails to effectively distinguish illicit and illegally-obtained objects. The current regulatory framework in nations of origin and in market nations puts far too much pressure--and expects too much--of investigators and prosecutors. This produces a number of negative consequences, including the loss of archaeological context, the illegal acquisition of objects by museums, and the destruction of objects. This paper will examine the U.S. criminal penalties for dealing in looted antiquities, focusing in particular on the vigorous use by Federal Prosecutors of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act both to police domestic looters, but also objects from abroad which enter the American antiquities trade. The paper looks at the risks and benefits of applying this federal criminal law in these novel contexts and concludes that many of the reasons for the difficulty in prosecuting these crimes may also make the trade of interest to organized criminals such as terrorist networks.

Since we have been looking recently at Japanese law, courtesy of alarmist bluster from DC legal firm Bailey and Ehrenburg, it is worth noting it has a law on the implementation of the 1970 UNESCO Convention which actually refers to all the measures outlined in the Convention. Britain has its Dealing in Cultural Property (Offences) Act which is phrased along the same lines. It is a mystery (well, not really) why the United States "implements" the Convention by an Act which actually does not give US law-enforcement any ability to prosecute offences involving the illicit movement of antiquities, presumably considering that ARPA was sufficient. I expect that Derek Fincham will show that using it for a purpose it was not originally intended does indeed create difficulties. There is a huge gap in the legislation of one of the principal markets for movable cultural property, licit and llicit. Is there really much support in the US government for the stifling of antiquity smuggling, or are there even US congressmen for example interested in it not being controlled?

Erik Nemeth, ARCA, Santa Monica, California will be talking on "Cultural Intelligence: data sources on the motivation and means for trafficking". The abstract of this announces that this will be another talk which will annoy the lobbyists who strenuously deny that there can be any connection between the antiquity trade and anything evil:
Over the past decade, the proximity of coveted antiquities to armed conflict with non-state actors has warranted consideration of the tactical value of cultural property. “Cultural intelligence” enables assessments of the value of antiquities to insurgencies and terrorist groups. This paper identifies sources of cultural intelligence as fundamental assets in countering looting and facilitating interdiction of trafficking in antiquities. Looting of antiquities in developing nations and targeting of religious monuments in acts of political violence offer potential tactical advantage to insurgencies and terrorist groups. The clandestine nature of the licit, let alone the illicit, trade in art challenges the collection of data on the financial value of antiquities in the primary market. Open-source publications, such as auction archives, that report on the art market provide a means to assess the relative value of antiquities across source nations, and players in the illicit trade offer opportunities for the collection of data on the networks that transfer antiquities internationally.
Kimberley Alderman is appearing also, her chosen title is: "Honor Amongst Thieves: The International Subculture of Art Crime":
In the past few decades, there has been an exponential increase in legislation of the antiquities trade by way of import/export restrictions and criminalization of the trade in objects subject to those restrictions. By way of this regulation, national governments may have inadvertently created fertile ground for the development of an international subculture of art crime. There is a growing movement of people who are willing to organize in order to subvert an increasingly repressive system regarding the trade in antiquities. [...] This presentation will discuss the various groups and organizations which have grown despite (or perhaps because of) criminalization, and it will consider how and if criminalization is deterring the trade in illegally excavated materials or creating a market for it.
Now THAT one I would especially like to hear, I hope she'll put the text up on her blog. I'd be interested how she presents it, this seems a bit like a chicken and egg situation. I would also ask since the laws she is talking about have been in existence for many decades, to what extent are they responsible for the rise of organized criminal groups and their involvement in antiquity hunting and smuggling over the past few decades? When did this all start? I ask because a while back I wrote a chapter on this phenomenon in Eastern Europe for a HAPPAH publication in production, and was looking into all this. Frightening stuff. I do hope the dear lady is not going to suggest if we legalise the market totally, organized crime will disappear...


Anonymous said...

Hey Paul! Thanks for the post and reference. That abstract was one I wrote before actually working on the paper. Derek's updated the abstract and it's also available on my blog, here.

I'll ask if the panel can be filmed, just for you. :)

The new abstract:

Honor Amongst Thieves: The International Subculture of Art Crime

Kim Alderman, University of Wisconsin Law School

Government agencies, non-profits, scholars, and advocacy groups alike assert that organized crime has fueled the illicit antiquities trade since the early 1960s. The illicit antiquities trade has been linked to money laundering, extortion, the drug and arms trades, terrorism and insurgency, and even slavery. Meanwhile, in the past fifty years, both the international community and sovereign states have increased legislation pertaining to cultural property. These developments in the antiquities trade beg the question of whether there is a relationship between the increased involvement of organized criminal groups in the trade and the increasingly repressive system regulating that trade. This presentation considers the connection between organized crime and the illicit antiquities trade, examines known criminal subcultures and evidence of their involvement in the trade, and inquires about a possible connection between the increasing regulation of the antiquities trade and the apparent increase in organization of those willing to subvert the legal system regulating that trade.

Paul Barford said...

Thanks, it is often quite amusing how a text sets out to be one thing and when you have finished, turned out to be something completely different. ... habent sua fata libelli as it were.

Anonymous said...

Yes, they do. Thank you, Paul.

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