Monday, March 17, 2014
With All Deliberate Speed: Implementing Emergency Import Controls on Cultural Objects from Egypt
Import controls must be implemented with all deliberate speed, particularly now that a potential request to protect endangered Egyptian artifacts has been announced publicly.
Cultural heritage watchers over the last few years have witnessed the destruction to cultural heritage that has been inflicted on archaeological sites, storehouses, museums, and places of worship in Egypt. The crisis has been severe, prompting the International Council of Museums in 2012 to issue its Emergency Red List of Egyptian Cultural Objects at Risk.
But the lack of comprehensive action to stem the looting and smuggling of cultural heritage has afforded heritage traffickers the advantage of a three year head start to move their ill-gotten gains to the United States. Calls by CHL in January 2011 and July 2013 for emergency import protections were not received with urgency.
Last week, however, Tom Mashberg of The New York Times reported that the State Department and the Egyptian Minister of State for Antiquities spoke about implementing American emergency import measures. By the terms of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA), the State Department must receive a formal request from the Egyptian government for that process to officially begin. The Federal Register has not yet reported such a formal request, although Mashberg writes that Egypt is looking "for fast action on the restrictions."
Now that the prospect of emergency restrictions on the importation of Egyptian artifacts appears real, traffickers are likely to increase shipments of heritage contraband to the U.S. before barriers are raised. And that is why emergency import measures must be implemented immediately.
Photo credit: Leonardo Barbosa