Engel: Cut Off Isis Funding from Looted Artifacts

Engel: Cut Off Isis Funding from Looted Artifacts

WASHINGTON, DCAs ISIS terrorists destroy more historic shrines and other sites in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, Representative Eliot L. Engel, the top Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today renewed his call for Congressional action on his bipartisanlegislation to crack down on the trafficking of looted Syrian artifacts as a funding source for the terrorist group.  The Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act (HR 1493), which unanimously passed in the House earlier this month, would impose import restrictions on artifacts looted from Syria and enhance U.S. government efforts to protect cultural property.

“There aren’t many easy answers when it comes to the fight against ISIS, but taking simple steps to cut off a funding source is a no-brainer. Week after week we see reports of ISIS terrorists ransacking irreplaceable sites.  These artifacts will eventually find their way to the black market and into the US, and the profits will find their way into ISIS coffers,” said Rep. Engel. “My legislation would help to cut off that flow of resources by blocking the import of the looted artifacts, and I call on my Senate colleagues to take up this bill and get it to the President’s desk.”

Representative Engel’s legislation unanimously passed the House on June 1st. The bill would impose new import restrictions on cultural artifacts removed from Syria. Similar restrictions were enacted in 2004 with respect to Iraqi antiquities. The legislation would provide exceptions to allow artifacts to enter the United States for protection and restoration. Restrictions would remain in effect until the crisis in Syria is resolved and America is able to work with a future Syrian government to protect cultural property from trafficking under a bilateral agreement, in accordance with America’s national interests.

The bill would also establish a new interagency body and coordinator role to enhance coordination among government agencies, including the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, already working on cultural preservation issues. It would also take steps to enhance Congressional oversight of this issue.