US Congress approves bill seeking to curb looting and trade of antiquities
Apr 27, 2016 10:59 AM EDT
The US Congress has sent to the White House for President Barack Obama to sign into law a bill seeking to control looting of Syrian antiquities by Islamic militants.
AP reported that the House passed by voice vote the bill that would prevent artifacts removed from Syria to be imported to the country and sold. The proponents of the bill expected the president to sign the bill without delay.
Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee who sponsored the bill said the militants have pocketed millions of dollars in the trade of irreplaceable artifacts in the black market. He added that Congress should seize every opportunity to plug the resouces of the Islamic State that fund their terrorism as the ransacking also serves to wipe out from people's memory centuries of Middle Eastern history.
Engel's bill was also passed in the Senate early this month. It provides for the fulfillment of commitments the United States supported at the United Nations Security Council to try to cut the trade in so-called blood antiquities that the Islamic State, the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda and other groups use to finance their military operations in Syria and Iraq, The New York Times reported.
The action of Congress came on the heels of the call of a task force of prominent advocacy groups, museums and universities to the Obama administration to take aggressive action to halt the looting. The task force urged the government to take steps, including military action, to stop the destruction of cultural sites in the two of the most unstable and volatile countries in the world.
unesco.org reported that the UN Security Council adopted Res. 2199 on Feb. 12, 2015 that condemns the destruction of cultural heritage and adopts legally-binding measures to stop illegal trade of antiquities from the two countries.
It noted a January 29, 2016 report of the Secretary General on threat of ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) or ISIS which encouraged all sectors to cooperate and take all possible measures to stop the illicit traficking of these items. It called for states, their agencies and instrumentalities to strengthen their relationship with the private sector to effectively enforce the program.