Engel Welcomes New Crackdown on Looted Syrian Antiquities

Import Restrictions Included in Engel Cultural Heritage Law

August 18, 2016

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today welcomed the U.S. Department of State’s announcement of emergency import restrictions of cultural heritage items originating in Syria.  These restrictions were required by Rep. Engel’s Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act (PL 114-151), signed by the President in May, which took steps to undermine antiquities looting and trafficking as a funding source for terrorist groups and ramped up U.S. efforts to protect cultural property worldwide. 

“ISIS and other heinous groups peddle items looted from ancient sites to finance their campaigns of terror.  The law I authored creates new import restrictions on cultural heritage items from Syria to help ensure antiquities sold here do not fund terrorism,” said Rep. Engel.  “I welcome this announcement as a major step in shutting down demand for these antiquities.  ISIS’s damage to Syrian cultural history is irreparable, but we must do more to deny ISIS this funding source and preserve whatever items remain.”

The Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act imposes new import restrictions on cultural artifacts removed from Syria.  Similar restrictions were enacted in 2004 with respect to Iraqi antiquities.  The law provides exceptions to allow artifacts to enter the United States for temporary protection and restoration.  Restrictions will 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 law expresses support for new interagency coordination efforts to enhance cooperation among the government agencies already working on cultural preservation issues, including the Departments of State, Defense, and Homeland Security.  It also takes steps to enhance congressional oversight of this issue