Saturday, May 05, 2007

Cultural Property: International Conventions and United States Legislation

Read the full 2004 report of the Congressional Research Service.


The looting of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, initially described as a devastating blow to the world's cultural heritage, has raised interest in measures to protect cultural patrimony. While more recent reports revealed that the loss of museum holdings had been exaggerated, the damage continues to be assessed as significant. There is broad international consensus that antiquities and art deserve special protection from the ravages of war, as is codified in the 1907 Hague Regulations, the 1949 Geneva Conventions, and the 1954 Hague Convention. Other agreements address protection of world heritage from pilfering and smuggling, including conventions drafted under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT). However, there is no international consensus on the most appropriate and effective means of providing protection. U.S. law to prevent the illicit "black market" trade in art and antiquities imposes both civil and criminal sanctions on art thieves, looters, and smugglers. This report describes relevant treaties, U.N. Security Council Resolution 1483, current U.S. law, and proposed legislation, including H.Con.Res. 113, the Iraq Cultural Protection Act (H.R. 2009 and H.R. 3497), and the Emergency Protection for Iraqi Cultural Antiquities Act of 2004 (S. 1291 and S. 671, the latter of which has passed the Senate as an engrossed amendment to H.R. 1047, the Miscellaneous Trade and Technical Corrections Act of 2004). The report will be updated as events require.

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