Monday 27 October 2014

How to STOP the flow of Illicit Antiquities

Sam Hardy in his piece in Reuters blog ('How the West buys ‘conflict antiquities’ from Iraq and Syria (and funds terror)', October 27, 2014)  discusses how we can try to curb the looting and smuggling of archaeological artefacts from Syria and Iraq so that they do not all "end up as art divorced from its culture – some in unscrupulous museums that hope they have been laundered just enough to appear clean, many more displayed as talking pieces in the homes of the wealthy or secreted away in private collections":
An emergency ban on trading in undocumented Syrian antiquities may help Syria now, but it will be no more effective against the perpetual, global threat than the ban on trading in undocumented Iraqi antiquities that preceded it. Instead, it would make more sense for other nations to copy Germany’s law that will oblige dealers and collectors to present an export licence from where the object is coming from, in order to receive an import licence for any ancient artifact. That will cut the supply of illicit antiquities to the market, and thereby cut the flow of money to looting and smuggling mafias and militants.
While I personally do not think it is as simple as hat (you'd have to institute "import licences" for a start) certainly I think that we should be shifting to a situation where it is incumbent on the dealer in artefacts to demonstrate in every case that they are of kosher collecting history. Rather like butchers have to present health certificates for the meat they sell (and the proverbial "egg" from the Das Erste report). I also think the time is long overdue for UNESCO to convene a session to rediscuss the 1970 Convention, and issue a Protocol (like the Hague one) or a new Convention fitting for the antiquities market of the 2020s and not 1960s.

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