WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the top Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today hailed the return to Iraq of looted artifacts recovered during a raid on ISIS commander Abu Sayyaf. Representative Engel renewed his call for additional measures to curb the sale of antiquities looted by ISIS in Syria as a source of funding for the terrorist group.
"The safe return of these items is great news. But we know there are many, many more artifacts being trafficked on the black market, and the profits from those sales are helping finance violence and bloodshed," said Rep. Engel. "The Senate has the opportunity to pass my legislation, go after this source of funding, and help preserve the cultural history that is under threat of destruction by ISIS."
Representative Engel introduced the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act (HR 1493), which would impose import restrictions on looted artifacts and enhance U.S. government efforts to protect the region's cultural heritage. The bill passed unanimously in the House last month. The bill would impose new import restrictions on cultural artifacts removed from Syria. Similar restrictions were enacted in 2004 with respect to Iraqi antiquities. The legislation would provide exceptions to allow artifacts to enter the United States for protection and restoration. Restrictions would remain in effect until the crisis in Syria is resolved and America is able to work with a future Syrian government to protect cultural property from trafficking under a bilateral agreement, in accordance with America’s national interests.
The bill would also establish a new interagency body and coordinator role to enhance coordination among government agencies, including the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, already working on cultural preservation issues. It would also take steps to enhance Congressional oversight of this issue.