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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Combating Terror Funding: Cultural Heritage Trafficking in Syria and Iraq Targeted by Unanimously Adopted UN Security Council Resolution

The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2199 today. It is designed to strangle terrorists' ability to raise money through cultural heritage trafficking and other criminal sources like oil smuggling and kidnap and ransom.

Adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charterwhich covers threats to peace, the resolution particularly targets fundraising efforts by the Islamic State (IS/ISIS/ISIL) and Al Nusra Front (ANF).

Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the U.N., told Security Council members, "by imposing a new ban on the trade in smuggled Syrian antiquities, this resolution both cuts off a source of ISIL revenue and helps protect an irreplaceable cultural heritage, of the region and of the world." She highlighted how "the United States has sponsored the publication of so-called “Emergency Red Lists” of Syrian and Iraqi antiquities at risk, which can help international law enforcement catch antiquities trafficked out of these countries."

United Kingdom ambassador Mark Lyall Grant expressed concern about the "disturbing body of evidence that Al Qaeda groups such as ISIL are generating significant incomes from the sale of oil, kidnapping for ransom and the looting and smuggling of cultural heritage items from Iraq and Syria." Speaking in support of the measure, Ambassador shared his view that the "resolution contains measures to constrain ISIL’s ability to fund their campaign of terror."

In the three paragraphs that cover cultural heritage trafficking, the Security Council declares that it
Condemns the destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria particularly by ISIL and ANF, whether such destruction is incidental or deliberate, including targeted destruction of religious sites and objects; 
Notes with concern that ISIL, ANF and other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with Al-Qaida, are generating income from engaging directly or indirectly in the looting and smuggling of cultural heritage items from archaeological sites, museums, libraries, archives, and other sites in Iraq and Syria, which is being used to support their recruitment efforts and strengthen their operational capability to organize and carry out terrorist attacks;
Reaffirms its decision in paragraph 7 of resolution 1483 (2003) [that prohibits the trade in Iraqi cultural heritage objects reasonably suspected to have been illegally removed] and decides that all Member States shall take appropriate steps to prevent the trade in Iraqi and Syrian cultural property and other items of archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific, and religious importance illegally removed from Iraq since 6 August 1990 and from Syria since 15 March 2011, including by prohibiting crossborder trade in such items, thereby allowing for their eventual safe return to the Iraqi and Syrian people and calls upon the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, Interpol, and other international organizations, as appropriate, to assist in the implementation of this paragraph[.]
The Permanent members of the Security Council include the United States, United Kingdom, Russian Federation, France, and China. Non-permanent members include Venezuela, Spain, Nigeria, New Zealand, Malaysia, Lithuania, Jordan, Chile, Chad, and Angola.

Russia authored Resolution 2199, and member states have four months to report the steps they have taken to comply with the resolution's aspirations.

Photo credit: Marmit

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