WASHINGTON, DC—Leaders of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs today called on the Department of the Treasury to ramp up efforts to block the import of antiquities looted from Syria. In a letter to Adam J. Szubin, Acting Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Committee Ranking Member Eliot L. Engel (D-NY); Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA); Representative William Keating (D-MA), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade; and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations encouraged the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to impose sanctions on importers of looted Syrian antiquities. Such an action would mirror OFAC sanctions already established for Iraq and implement a recently adopted United Nations Security Council resolution.
The lawmakers’ letter to the Treasury Department follows their introduction last week of the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act (H.R. 1493). This legislation and the sanctions proposed today are designed to prevent ISIL and other heinous groups from profiting by looting and trafficking in historical artifacts.
The text of the letter follows.
March 30, 2015
Adam J. Szubin
Acting Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence
U.S. Department of Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20220
Dear Mr. Szubin,
We write to urge that the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control act quickly to promulgate regulations imposing sanctions on importers of cultural property unlawfully removed from Syria. Such regulations would implement a recently adopted United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution and would mirror regulations already established for Iraq (Iraq Stabilization and Insurgency Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 576).
By adopting these restrictions, the United States would close our markets to the trafficking in historical artifacts that helps fund the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the barbaric terrorist group that continues to occupy large swaths of Syria and Iraq. To date, our efforts to eliminate ISIL’s sources of funding have focused primarily on preventing oil smuggling and denying ransoms demanded for kidnapping. However, a comprehensive effort must also cover looting and trafficking of cultural property, which has become a significant source of funding for ISIL and other terrorist organizations.
On February 12, 2015, the UNSC unanimously adopted Resolution 2199, which calls on all States to prohibit trade in cultural property looted from Syria. The Resolution notes that ISIL and other terrorist organizations “are generating income from engaging directly or indirectly in the looting and smuggling of cultural heritage items from archaeological sites, museums, libraries, archives, and other sites in Iraq and Syria, which is being used to support their recruitment efforts and strengthen their operational capability to organize and carry out terrorist attacks.” The United States should act quickly to impose the restrictions on trade in cultural property called for in this Resolution.
We urge you to protect Syrian cultural property by establishing these sanctions under existing authorities as soon as possible. Thank you for your consideration of this important issue.
ELIOT L. ENGEL
House Foreign Affairs Committee
EDWARD R. ROYCE
House Foreign Affairs Committee
Subcommittee on Terrorism,
Nonproliferation, and Trade
Subcommittee on Africa, Global
Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations