Senate Passes Engel Bill to Curb ISIS Antiquities Looting

Engel Legislation Would Crack Down on Terrorist Financing, Protect Syria’s Fragile History

April 14, 2016

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today welcomed Senate passage of his legislation to crack down on the financing of terrorism through antiquities looting.  The Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act (H.R.1493) would impose tough new import restrictions on looted Syrian artifacts and ramp up efforts to protect cultural property from conflicts around the world.

“ISIS has pocketed millions of dollars trafficking irreplaceable artifacts on the black market while simultaneously trying to wipe away an entire region’s history,” said Rep. Engel.  “We should be doing everything possible to cut off resources from terrorist groups, and my bill would make it harder for ISIS to use cultural destruction as a funding source.  I applaud my Senate colleagues for passing this legislation.”
On June 1, 2015, Representative Engel’s legislation unanimously passed the House, and will return to the House for final approval before proceeding to the President’s desk. 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 temporary 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.

Additionally, the bill would establish a new interagency coordinating body to enhance cooperation among the 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.

Click here for a fact sheet on H.R. 1493, the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act, introduced by Rep. Engel along with Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; Rep. William R. Keating (D-MA), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade; and Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations.