Monday, November 24, 2014

Editors of the ABA Journal announced today the selection of Cultural Heritage Lawyer as one of its top 100 best blogs.

Now that the editors have made their picks, the ABA Journal is asking readers to weigh in and vote for their favorites in each of the 8th Annual Blawg 100’s thirteen categories.

Click here to register and vote. Vote for CHL in the "Niche" blog category. Voting ends at close of business on Dec. 19, 2014.

CHL is grateful for the honor. Many thanks go to the blog's loyal readers, who make about 15,000 page views per month.

ABA Journal Editor and Publisher Allen Pusey remarked that law blogs play a crucial role in today's legal media landscape, explaining, “While traditional media sources often break news, law blogs dive deeper to offer insight into what the news means for clients, the legal profession and the public. And the ones on our list are well-written and, more often than not, entertaining.”

The ABA Journal is the flagship magazine of the American Bar Association, which is read by half of the nation’s 1.1 million lawyers every month. It features a directory of more than 4,000 lawyer blogs.

Text copyrighted 2014 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The fight to preserve our common cultural heritage, as well as to deny extremists such as ISIL [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] resources from the sale of blood antiquities, is yet another front on the global war against terror." proclaimed Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.-4) in a press statement issued last week.

Congressmen Eliot Engel and Chris Smith, sponsors of the
Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act.
Rep. Smith, together with Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.-16), introduced the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act (H.R. 5703) in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday. The bill would create a cultural property protection czar and set up import restrictions to prevent looted and smuggled Syrian heritage material from crossing America's borders.

Rep. Engel, the lead sponsor of the bill, emphasized its importance: “Since World War II, the United States has been a leader in protecting cultural property. Today, ISIL and other terrorist organizations have found a lucrative source of revenue in artifacts they traffic out of areas of conflict. America must respond by denying terrorists and criminals the ability to profit from instability by looting the world of its greatest treasures.”

The proposed legislation would advance four articulated U.S. policy goals designed to
(1) protect and preserve international cultural property at risk of destruction due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters;
(2) protect international cultural property pursuant to its obligations under the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and customary international law in all conflicts to which the United States is a party; 
(3) prevent, in accordance with existing laws, importation of cultural property pillaged, looted, or stolen during political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters; and 
(4) ensure that existing laws and regulations, including import restrictions imposed through the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) of the Department of the Treasury, are fully implemented to prevent the trafficking in stolen or looted cultural property.
To promote these objectives, the lawmakers want the White House to appoint a Coordinator for International Cultural Property Protection who will
(1) coordinate and promote efforts to address international cultural property protection activities that involve multiple Federal agencies, including diplomatic activities, military activities, law enforcement activities, import restrictions, and the work of the Cultural Antiquities Task Force established pursuant to the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2004 (Public Law 108-199); 
(2) submit to the appropriate congressional committees an annual report on interagency efforts to protect international cultural property based on information required under section 5 of this Act; 
(3) provide policy recommendations, if necessary; 
(4) resolve interagency differences in a timely, efficient, and effective manner; and 
(5) work and consult with domestic and international actors such as foreign governments, nongovernmental organizations, museums, educational institutions, research institutions, and the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield on efforts to promote and protect international cultural property.
Under the terms of the legislative proposal, the Secretary of State, Attorney General, Secretary of Defense, and United States Agency for International Development Administrator would be required to submit reports to the cultural property protection czar that describe each department’s efforts to protect cultural property from the threats of armed conflict, political unrest, crime, construction activities, and natural disaster.

The bill curiously omits any duties that might have been placed on the Secretaries of Treasury, Interior, or Homeland Security to supply reports directly to the Coordinator. These cabinet officials supervise agencies that have an impact on international cultural property policyagencies like the the Office of Terrorism and Financial Assistance, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the Internal Revenue ServiceU.S. Fish and Wildlife, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations and Customs and Border Protection divisions. At best, the proposed legislation would have the Attorney General simply offer a report "in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security."

Reps. Engel and Smith also want to implement safeguards to protect endangered Syrian cultural property. Their bill would mandate the President to immediately enact emergency import restrictions under the terms of the Convention on the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) 19 U.S.C. 2603 in order to stop looted and smuggled antiquities from entering the American marketplace.

The legislation attempts to offer a solution to the CPIA's cumbersome statutory framework, which currently requires Syria’s government—under whatever form that might be at present—to first ask the State Department for American import controls restricting cultural objects. Recall that the White House recognized the rebels as the legitimate governing authority of the Syrian Arab Republic in 2012.

The proposed Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act, in both substance and procedure, mirrors the Emergency Protection of Iraqi Cultural Antiquities Act of 2004 as well as CHL’s 2013 recommendation for an Emergency Protection of Egyptian Cultural Antiquities Act.

It remains to be seen whether the 113th Congress will take up these critical requests for a cultural property policy coordinator or for import controls to protect threatened heritage. Congress is in a lame duck session following the GOP's sweeping election victory earlier this month. Yet the proposed legislation already has been referred to the House Committees on Foreign Affairs, Ways and Means, Armed Services, and Judiciary. The bill's sponsors, more importantly, are well-known fixtures in the House. They hail from from safe districts where constituents regularly vote them back in office by wide margins.

Rep. Engel is the ranking minority member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. He is a liberal Democrat who recently earned a fourteenth term after facing no opponent in a district that encompasses New York’s Westchester County and the Bronx. Rep. Engel is known for his sponsorship of the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act.

Rep. Smith, meanwhile, first arrived on Capitol Hill following the election of 1980. He is a popular conservative Republican representing Trenton and central New Jersey. He possesses expertise on the topics of foreign affairs and organized crime, serving as senior member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; chair of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe; chair of the Subcommittee on Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations; and chairman of the Congressional Human Trafficking Caucus. Last year Rep. Smith introduced a resolution to establish a Syrian war crimes tribunal.

The full text of H.R. 5703, the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act, can be found here.

Photo credit:

By Rick St. Hilaire Text copyrighted 2014 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited.

Friday, November 7, 2014

U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch
It is not every day that an attorney general nominee actually has a record of handling cultural property forfeitures and prosecutions. But that is the case with Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Lynch is President Barack Obama's choice to replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder.

Lynch's office has handled a few heritage trafficking cases, including...

Lynch's office filed a civil forfeiture complaint last month to forfeit a 65 million year old dinosaur skull. Prosecutors alleged that a fossil dealer unlawfully attempted to import an Alioramus head by failing to declare that it was real, that it originated from Mongolia, and that it had a value of $250,000.

2. U.S. v. One Ancient Roman Sarcophagus Lid with Sculpture of Reclining Woman
Litigation over a sculptured coffin cover came to a successful conclusion in September when Lynch's office finalized an agreement to forfeit the object from a collector so that it could be returned to Italy. The Roman sarcophagus lid was featured as an illicit antiquity in the Becchina archive.

3. U.S. v Victor Gordon
After a federal district court sentenced an ivory smuggler in June to a sentence of 30 months in prison, two years supervised release, a $7500 fine, and the forfeiture of $150,000 plus one ton of elephant ivory, Lynch remarked that “preventing the flow of illegal ivory through and within our borders” is an important American commitment. “This prosecution–which resulted in the seizure and forfeiture of one of the largest known caches of illegal elephant ivory in the United States and the imprisonment of the person who acquired and attempted to profit from it – is emblematic of that commitment.”

4. U.S. v. Khouli et al.
An antiquities trafficking case that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement billed in 2011 as "a ground breaking case for Homeland Security Investigations" ended with mixed results for Lynch's office. Only two out of four men were convicted. One case netted a sentence of house arrest for a New York gallery owner. Another saw a felony charge dropped to a misdemeanor; the defendant paid a fine. Prosecutors later dropped a third man's case after he satisfied a deferred prosecution agreement. And authorities later gave up looking for a fourth man, a fugitive from justice, after litigation came to an abrupt halt in 2013.

Lynch posted a vibrant press statement at the start of the prosecution when her office charged the defendants with conspiring to smuggle ancient artifacts, engaging in money laundering, and making false statements to carry out their crime. She said, "Antiquities dealers and collectors are on notice that the smuggling of cultural patrimony will not be tolerated." But her office's only other press release, issued the following year, was muted and devoid of any direct quotes from the U.S. Attorney.

The objects involved in the case included Egyptian sarcophagi, Iraqi glass vessels and clay relief plaques, and Iranian (Luristani) bronzes.

Photo source: U.S. Department of Justice

By Rick St. Hilaire Text copyrighted 2014 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Dr. Victoria Reed and Attorney Rick St. Hilaire answer questions from an audience of legal and cultural heritage professionals at the Daniel Webster International Lawyer of the Year ceremony held in Manchester, NH. Van McLeod, Commissioner of the NH Department of Cultural Resources (pictured at far left), listens with interest.
Photo courtesy of Norman St. Hilaire.

International lawyers gathered last week at the New Hampshire law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green to recognize the positive impact made by international cultural heritage law to protect cultural property around the globe.

The attorneys listened attentively as Victoria Reed keynoted the Daniel Webster International Lawyer of the Year ceremony honoring the contributions made by the CHL blog.

Dr. Reed discussed the global trade in art and antiquities and explained the accessions practice implemented by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), which digs deep into the collecting histories of artifacts. Dr. Reed is the MFA's Sadler Curator for Provenance.

Scrutinizing an object's collecting history and its accompanying import/export documentation is vital, Dr. Reed emphasized. That is because the provenance information offered by a seller or donor may not always be correct. Performing due diligence research therefore is essential to discover the truth about an object's collecting history.

CHL is grateful to the NH Bar Association for acknowledging international cultural heritage law as an important legal discipline.

Attorney Robert Cheney, international law section chair of the NH Bar Association,
recognizes CHL's author as the Daniel Webster International Lawyer of the Year.
Photo courtesy of Dan Wise.

By Rick St. Hilaire
Text copyrighted 2014 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited.