Engel Bill to Halt ISIS Antiquities Looting Advances in Senate

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

January 28, 2016

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today welcomed approval of his legislation, the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act (H.R.1493), by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.  Representative Engel’s bill would help curb funding for ISIS by cracking down on the trafficking of artifacts looted from cultural sites in Syria.

“ISIS is pocketing millions of dollars by trafficking irreplaceable artifacts on the black market.  Whatever they can’t loot, they’re destroying in an effort to wipe away history,” said Rep. Engel. “My legislation would make it harder for ISIS to peddle looted antiquities as a funding source, and I applaud my Senate colleagues on the Foreign Relations Committee for moving this measure forward.  Today’s action is a great example of what we can accomplish when we put our heads together and work in a bipartisan way to advance American interests abroad.”

Representative Engel’s legislation unanimously passed the House on June 1, 2015. 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 also calls on the President to establish a new interagency body to enhance cooperation among the government agencies already working on cultural preservation and improves Congressional oversight of this issue.

The bill has the support of the Society for American Archaeology, the American Alliance of Museums, the Getty Trust Syrian American Council, the American Anthropological Association, the American Schools of Oriental Research, the Antiquities Coalition, the Archaeological Institute of America, the International Council of Museums, the Association of Art Museum Directors, the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation, Preservation Action, the Society for Historical Archaeology, the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, the U.S. National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, and others.