The Destruction of World Heritage Sites as It Concerns Cultural Property and International Laws

The Destruction of World Heritage Sites as It Concerns Cultural Property and International Laws

January 26, 2016

Text by Elizabeth Weber, Esq, Centre for Art Law

Moderated by Peter Herdrich, a co-founder of the Antiquities Coalition and the founding Partner of the Heritas Group, the panel included Colonel Matthew Bogdanos, Esq., New York County District Attorney’s Office; Megan E. Noh, Esq., Associate General Counsel, Bonhams; Steven D. Feldman, Esq., Murphy & McGonigle; Brenton Easter, Special Agent, Homeland Security Department’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.

Panelists discussed how the ongoing illegal traffic in looted antiquities is fueling the sectarian and other conflicts. Beautiful remnants of the past, improperly excavated and exported in violation of domestic law to financially benefit militants and looters, are poised to enter private art collections. Protection of cultural property is a perennial problem, exacerbated by the current political events on the territories of Syria and Iraq under the Islamic State (ISIS) control.

With irreparable harm inflicted by looting and demolition, panelists discussed the current events in ISIS-controlled territories and present possible scenarios for handling legal matters concerning cultural valuables that are bound for the American art market. The presenters focused on various channels of distribution available in the source countries, as well as suggested best practices on handling looted property (always ask for provenance information, credible documents from exhibitions and insurance, and cooperate with authorities).