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Engel Floor Remarks on Cultural Property Preservation

Sep 20, 2016
Press Release

 

- As Delivered -

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following remarks in support of the Prevent Trafficking in Cultural Property Act (H.R.2285): 

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  I want to thank Mr. Keating for yielding for to me.  He is a very valued member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and once again he is doing excellent work with this bill.  Mr. Roskam as well.

“I am proud to be an original cosponsor of this bill.  I’m grateful for the work that Mr. Keating has done to shine a light on the challenge of antiquities looting. 

“We hear these stories about ISIS terrorists destroying heritage sites and smashing statues, and it’s heartbreaking.  They’re trying to wipe away history.  But I have heard people say, ‘Well, this is bad, but shouldn’t we be focused on stopping violence and killing?’

“Well make no mistake: these practices go hand in hand.  It’s not a matter of choosing one over the other.  Before ISIS extremists pulverize statues and temples, they loot whatever they can carry and peddle these items on the black market.

“I have a, a bill—a law actually—that has been passed involving these antiquities in Syria.  This is a funding source for their campaign of terror.  So by confronting the pro—, problem, we’re working to cut off a valuable resource for ISIS.

“So as I mentioned, I’m proud that earlier this year, the President signed a law that I authored to impose new import restrictions on antiquities looted from Syria during the current conflict.   Mr. Keating, Mr. Roskam’s measure goes a step further to help provide the training needed to enforce the protect—, protections we’ve put in place.

“The new restrictions are similar to what we have imposed for Iraq a number of years ago.  They are designed to undermine the market for looted antiquities and ensure that antiquities sold by terrorist organizations don’t find their way to our shores. 

“Before these restrictions can do their job, however, law enforcement needs tools and training to identify stolen antiquities so they don’t slip through our ports.

“Mr. Keating’s legislation will help make sure Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are able to intercept and investigate cultural property illegally imported into the United States.  It will make it easier for them to root out the trafficking networks responsible for this trafficking.  And it expresses support for the U.S. Attorneys we depend on for prosecuting these cases.

“This is not a new job for these officers.  For years they have worked to prevent trafficking in illegal antiquities.  But their jobs are harder than ever. This bill will get them the legal tools and training they need to get that job done.

“So Mr. Speaker, we need to use every tool at our disposal to deny ISIS funding and resources.  That’s what we’re doing when we focus on antiquities looting.  At the same time, we’re working to preserve cultural heritage that’s increasingly under threat.

“So I thank Mr. Keating for his leadership and hard work.  I thank him for bringing this bill forward.  I’m very pleased to support it, and I urge all members to the same.  I yield back.”

Background:

In May 2016, the President signed into law Rep. Engel’s Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act (H.R.1493).  This legislation seeks to crack down on the sale of artifacts looted by ISIS from cultural sites in Syria, contributing to the comprehensive policy of degrading and destroying ISIS without risking American lives or costing American taxpayers.  In particular, this new law imposes tough import restrictions on antiquities—some of which have already been announced—that are trafficked out of Syria, bringing U.S. policy in line with a UN Security Council Resolution that called on governments to deny funding to ISIS by preventing trade in Iraqi and Syrian cultural property.

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