WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the top Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today renewed his calls for Congressional action to crack down on ISIS’s trafficking of looted artifacts to finance its campaign of violence. ISIS terrorists continue to ransack heritage sites and traffic antiquities across the region. Reports also underscore the group's strategic advantage at historic states across Iraq and Syria, and its increasing tendency to destroy archeological sites and loot them for profit and publicity. Representative Engel introduced the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act (HR 1493) which would impose import restrictions on looted artifacts and enhance U.S. government efforts to protect the region's cultural heritage. The bill passed unanimously in the House last month.
“We’ve already taken steps to cut off resources for ISIS by cracking down on oil smuggling. A comprehensive effort must also deal with the looting and trafficking of cultural property. This is a major source of funding for ISIS,” said Rep. Engel. “With each passing day, ISIS destroys more and more of these irreplaceable treasures. It’s past time for the United States to step up and meet this challenge.”
Representative Engel’s legislation unanimously passed the House on June 1st. The bill would impose new import restrictions on cultural artifacts removed from Syria. Similar restrictions were enacted in 2004 with respect to Iraqi antiquities. The legislation would provide exceptions to allow artifacts to enter the United States for protection and restoration. Restrictions would remain in effect until the crisis in Syria is resolved and America is able to work with a future Syrian government to protect cultural property from trafficking under a bilateral agreement, in accordance with America’s national interests.
The bill would also establish a new interagency body and coordinator role to enhance coordination among government agencies, including the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, already working on cultural preservation issues. It would also take steps to enhance Congressional oversight of this issue.