Saturday, November 17, 2018

Expanded Counter Terrorism Network Could Help Antiquities Trafficking Prosecutions

World map of prosecutors counter terrorism and cultural heritage trafficking network

Prosecutors' Counter Terrorism Network could leverage criminal cases against cultural heritage traffickers.

A new project launched this week by the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP) aims to build better connections between counter-terrorism (CT) prosecutors.

The initiative should be welcome news to those few prosecutors worldwide who monitor antiquities trafficking and its links to organized crime, smuggling rings, and terror groups.

The IAP, along with the Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes, on Thursday announced the expansion of the Counter Terrorism Prosecutors Network, which is a global network of counter-terrorism prosecutors and Mutual Legal Assistance contacts. IAP says the project will "improve CT prosecutors' knowledge and capacity to successfully engage in international cooperation in combating terrorism and organised crime."

Such a network may help prosecutors with cases like United States of America v. One Gold Ring with Carved Gemstone, An Asset of ISIL Discovered on Electronic Media of Abu Sayyaf, President of ISIL Antiquities Department et al. (16-cv-02442-TFH), which is pending in federal court in the District of Columbia. According to the prosecutors' filed complaint, "Abu Sayyaf’s antiquities trafficking directly financed ISIL," citing a direct link between the terror group's chief of antiquities and terrorist financing. Government attorneys argue that specifically identified cultural properties are subject to forfeiture under 18 U.S.C. § 981(a)(1)(G)(i) "as foreign assets of ISIL and as foreign assets affording a source of influence, as ISIL has and is engaged in planning and perpetrating federal crimes of terrorism as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 2332b(g)(5)."

Digital evidence is a key component of the Abu Sayyaf case, and the IAP has declared that its new networking initiative will help prosecutors "effectively cooperate with their global counterparts in requesting and sharing digital evidence."

Photo credit: Sebastian Wendowski/

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