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The Antiquities Coalition Applauds Congressional Action to Counter Illicit Trade in Blood Antiquities

April 27, 2016

The Antiquities Coalition Applauds Congressional Action to Counter Illicit Trade in Blood Antiquities

Bill’s Passage Advances U.S. Leadership in the Fight Against Cultural Crimes and Terrorist Financing

WASHINGTON, DC (April 27, 2016): Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act (H.R. 1493/S. 1887). This legislation closes U.S. borders to plundered Syrian art, and in the process, will help to cut off a critical source of terrorist financing: Since the 2011 Arab Spring, violent extremist organizations like Daesh (also known as ISIL or ISIS) have increasingly armed their cause through the looting and trafficking of “blood antiquities” pillaged from the Cradle of Civilization.

The Antiquities Coalition thanks Representative Eliot Engel of New York—H.R. 1493’s sponsor—for his leadership and dedication, as well as the bill’s co-sponsors in the House, Representatives Smith (NJ), Royce (CA), and Keating (MA), as well as Senators Casey, Grassley, and Perdue in the Senate.

“The Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act is a critical, bipartisan demonstration of American leadership,” said Deborah Lehr, Chair and Founder of the Antiquities Coalition. “The looting of antiquities is a direct threat to American national security and to humanity’s shared heritage. By closing the U.S. market to blood antiquities from Syria, the United States is cutting off a key source of terrorist financing. We applaud Congress, along with the many individual citizens and groups whose hard work and dedication made the passage of this bill possible, and look forward to working with them all to ensure its implementation.”

H.R. 1493/S. 1887 restricts the import of Syrian antiquities illegally removed from the country since 15 March 2011—the start of the Syrian Civil—building on restrictions in place for Iraqi antiquities since 2004. It additionally will fulfill the United States’ obligations under U.N. Security Council Resolution 2199 of February 2015 to cut off terrorist financing to Daesh, the Al-Nusrah Front, and Al Qaeda from antiquities, hostages, and oil.

“Despite Security Council Resolution 2199, for the last 14 months, U.S. borders have remained open to conflict antiquities from Syria,” said Tess Davis, Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition. “It is critical that President Obama promptly sign this important bill into law. Since the United States makes up 43% of the global art market, and leads world demand for licit and illicit antiquities, we can also deal a major blow to the black market overall.”

The bill’s passage follows the release of #CultureUnderThreat: Recommendations for the U.S. Government by the Antiquities Coalition, Asia Society, and the Middle East Institute. This report calls on Congress to expeditiously pass H.R. 1493/S. 1887, along with 30 other proposed steps for the Administration, Congress, United Nations, and art market. It was compiled by a Task Force of experts in the heritage, law enforcement, national security, business, and technology communities. The report is the first ever comprehensive action plan issued to confront the growing threats that cultural racketeering and cultural cleansing represent to heritage and to national security.

About the Antiquities Coalition

The Antiquities Coalition is leading the global fight against cultural racketeering: the illicit trade in antiquities by organized criminals and terrorist organizations. This plunder for profit funds crime and conflict around the world — erasing our past and threatening our future. The Coalition’s innovative and practical solutions tackle crimes against heritage head on, empowering communities and countries in crisis. Learn more at