Initiatives to strengthen international capacities for the protection of cultural property and the prevention of illicit trafficking in cultural goods

Initiatives to strengthen international capacities for the protection of cultural property and the prevention of illicit trafficking in cultural goods

13th January 2017, Strasbourg.

The Cypriot Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe attaches particular importance to the protection of cultural heritage and the prevention of the illicit trafficking in cultural goods. This issue is also among the priorities of the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe is currently preparing a new Convention on Offences related to Cultural Property in its efforts to strengthen the framework of legal protection.

Objectives of the Colloquium:

The Colloquium aimed to:

  • provide a platform to exchange best practices from esteemed professionals and high level representatives of relevant international organisations working in the field;
  • assess the key issues relating to the international framework for the protection of cultural property;
  • share views, concerns and approaches of the different stakeholders that participate in the fight against illicit trafficking and destruction of cultural property;
  • discuss the benefits and added values of the future Council of Europe Convention;
  • facilitate the development of reinforced co-operation and synergies for a strong international framework for the protection and preservation of cultural property.

The event brought together high-level representatives of:

  • Government experts
  • Policy-makers
  • Academic experts
  • Representatives of international organizations
  • Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE)
  • United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
  • International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT)
  • Office of the Prosecutor, International Criminal Court (ICC)
  • European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC)
  • Steering Committee for Culture, Heritage and Landscape (CDCPP)
  • Committee of Experts on Terrorism (CODEXTER)
  • Committee on Offences relating to Cultural Property (PC-ICB)
  • Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums

to discuss building synergies, co-ordinating international co-operation and improving the international framework for the protection of cultural property and the prevention of illicit excavation trafficking in cultural goods .

The concept paper with details of the event can be downloaded here: Concept paper colloquium
The draft programme can be downloaded here: Draft programme

The Council of Europe opening speech can be read on their website here.
The Address by Ioannis Kasoulides, Chair of the Committee of Ministers and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cyprus can be read here.

The Syrian DGAM have provided an overview of the event (here):

“The Opening of the Colloquium by Mr Thorbjorn JAGLAND, Secretary General of the Council of Europe،
Welcome address by Mr Ioannis KASOULIDES, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cyprus,
then address by Ms Irina BOKOVA, Director-General of UNESCO.

Prof. Maamoun AbdulKarim, Director-General of Antiquities and Museums presented a lecture in the first session of Colloquium
He focused on the impacts of damage of archaeological sites caused by armed antiquities gangs and challenges that DGAM faces in crisis; he spoke also about the procedures taken by DGAM in the case of saving the absolute majority of antique collectables in museums and how DGAM transported them to safe places, risks suffered by some of the museums located in the hot regions, and the pursuit through the local community to neutralize them and protect them from being stolen, and the role played by the competent authorities in Syria to restore more than seven thousand relics during the crisis before being smuggled from Syria.

Also he mentioned to the fruitful and constructive cooperation with the international community, represented by UNESCO, Interpol , international customs and relevant stakeholders to combat the illicit trafficking of antiquities smuggling.

At the end of the lecture, Prof. AbdulKarim appealed to the international community to carry out its duties toward Syrian heritage which is considered part of the World Heritage.

It is worth mentioning that attendees have interacted warmly with the extraordinary efforts undertaken by DGAM to defend Syria’s heritage for all Syrians as united identity of the Syrians to defend their past and their history and identity.

Then the floor was addressed by

  • Ms.Fatou BENSOUDA, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court
  • Representative of the competent Italian law enforcement agency
  • Mr Hans-Holger HERRNFELD, Chair of the Committee on Offences relating to Cultural Property
  • Ms Anna VENEZIANO, Deputy Secretary-General of UNIDROIT

The topics of Lectures handled the illicit excavation, export and import, acquisition, and sale of cultural property is a lucrative and complex issue often linked to cross-border organised crime. Beyond the fact that the illicit trafficking of cultural goods today constitutes a source of terrorist financing, it is important to consider the enormous damage caused by the destruction of cultural heritage to our shared history and national will as Protecting cultural property is a transversal problem which requires a co-ordinated approach between local, national, regional and international actors.

On the side of the Colloquium a meeting was held in the Council of Europe between the General Director of UNESCO, Ms. Irina Bokova, and Director General of Antiquities and Museums in Syria, Prof. Maamoun AbdulKarim to discuss the latest processes concerning the heritage of Syria. She thanked the efforts of DGAM in these exceptional circumstances and expressed full support of UNESCO in order to save the Syrian heritage and to provide all forms of support to revive and preserve the old city of Aleppo.”