In April 2018, UK Blue Shield released its second Position Paper on the Implementation Guidance for the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and both Protocols (HC54), created by the UK Government. The second paper specifically focuses on the new s.17 offence created in the legislation – Dealing in unlawfully exported cultural property.
(Download the UK Blue Shield Position Paper – UK Implementation of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict: S. 17 Offence Dealing in Unlawfully Exported Cultural Property)
In December 2017, the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its First and Second Protocols (1954/1999) (hereafter the “Convention”, “First Protocol”, and “Second Protocol” respectively”) entered into force in the UK, together with the Cultural Property (Armed Conflict) Act 2017 (“CPAC Act”). The CPAC Act includes a criminal offence pursuant to Article 15 of the First Protocol which creates the offence of Dealing in Unlawfully Exported Cultural Property. (“s.17 Offence”). In November 2017 the Department of Culture Media and Sport released Guidance for art dealers and those in the art market in respect of the CPAC Act, and specific guidance in respect of the s.17 Offence (“s.17 Guidance”).
UK Blue Shield welcomes the implementation of the Convention and its Protocols as an important step in the UK’s fight to protect cultural heritage during armed conflict. We also welcome the UK’s implementation of a right to seize unlawfully exported cultural property, as set out in s.19 of the CPAC Act, which we hope may contribute to the repatriation of cultural property to territories that have suffered the loss of their cultural heritage as a result of conflict.
However, as the s.17 Guidance is addressed largely to those in the art market, which typically includes collectors, art dealers, auction houses and shipping agents, the majority of whom do not have a legal background, we are concerned that the s.17 Guidance lacks necessary detail and clarity in some fundamental areas which are vital to the spirit of the Convention and its Protocols.
As a conviction under s.17 of the CPAC Act may attract a custodial sentence of up to 7 years, we urge the UK Government to address the concerns set out herein to provide greater clarity to those involved in the art market as to their obligations and to highlight how these obligations have changed as a result of the introduction of the s.17 Offence.
We hope that the s.17 Offence acts as a deterrent and encourages all those involved in the art market to exercise due diligence when dealing in cultural property, thus ensuring that the UK fulfils its obligations under the Convention to respect cultural heritage and to combat the illicit trafficking of cultural property unlawfully exported during conflict.