Monday, September 23, 2013

New Wildlife Trafficking Initiative Should Be a Model for an Antiquities Trafficking Initiative

Earlier this month the White House announced the creation of the Advisory Council to the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking. It hopes to develop a national strategy for combating this crime. Such an initiative should be considered for heritage trafficking as well.

President Barak Obama signed Executive Order 13648 on Combating Wildlife Trafficking on July 1, 2013 because "poaching of protected species and the illegal trade in wildlife and their derivative parts and products ... represent an international crisis that continues to escalate." The Executive Order formed the Task Force that is chaired by the Attorney General and the Secretaries of State and the Interior.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Robert G. Dreher of the U.S. Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said, "Vigorous enforcement of the nation’s wildlife trafficking laws, through investigation and prosecution of those who violate those laws, is a central element of the nation’s efforts to combat wildlife trafficking."

Dreher added that "the Department of Justice has successfully prosecuted numerous cases of illicit wildlife smuggling involving trafficking of rhinoceros horns, elephant ivory, South African leopard, Asian and African tortoises and reptiles, and many other forms of protected wildlife and protected plant species."

Dreher observed, "The illicit wildlife trade increasingly involves international organized crime and millions of dollars, and it is driving some protected species towards extinction in our own time.  The Department of Justice treats these crimes with the utmost seriousness."

Heritage trafficking involves criminal activity, the flow of large sums of money, and the theft and destruction of history and culture. Because the illegal trade in cultural property continues to flow, a national strategy for combating this crime could be formulated by a task force similar to the new task force focused on wildlife. It could be chaired by the Attorney General and the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security.

UPDATE: See March 11, 2014 blog post.

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