Late in the day, April 26, 2016 and with final House passage, the US government has approved its final amended version of H.R. 1493, "The Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act" agreed to in the Senate by Unanimous Consent. The proposed law will now head to the US President’s desk for signature.
H.R. 1493 was drafted to deny ISIS Funding and to save Syria’s antiquities through the trafficking of its material culture.
The bill was introduced in the United States House of Representatives on March 19, 2015 during the 114th Congress, First Session by Representative Eliot L. Engel, [D-NY-16] via the House - Armed Services; Foreign Affairs; Judiciary; Ways and Means Committee and also referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs. The bill calls for the protection and preservation of international cultural property at risk due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters, and for other purposes.
Since that time the House and Senate have debated the bill separately and offered amendments (ultimately approved as amended by the Senate on April 18, 2016, before the bill went on to all of the US Congress for a full vote. The amended version includes a stronger "safe harbour" measure for Syrian antiquities and deleted a the proposed State Department "Cultural Property Czar."
As both the Senate and the House have now voted approving the finalized amended version of the bill, it will now go forward to Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, for his signatory approval.
A Fact Sheet released by the United States House of Representative Committee on Foreign Affairs details H.R. 1493 stated the following.
ISIS earns tens of millions annually from looting and trafficking antiquities to fund terror. A UN Security Council resolution passed in February calls on all nations to help defund ISIS by preventing trade in Syrian antiquities.
America’s allies have already imposed import restrictions on trafficked Syrian and Iraqi artifacts. Congress established similar restrictions for Iraqi artifacts in 2004 but has yet to act for Syria, leaving Syrian artifacts open to looting and trafficking by ISIS.H.R. 1493
- Imposes import restrictions on illicit Syrian artifacts to undercut looting and trafficking.
- Provides for antiquities to be temporarily protected by U.S. institutions until they can be safely returned to their rightful owners.
- Expresses congressional support for establishing an interagency coordinating committee to better protect historical sites and artifacts at risk worldwide.
- Improves congressional oversight of efforts to save cultural property.
This bill has been publicly endorsed and supported by the American Alliance of Museums, the American Anthropological Association, the American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works, the Archaeological Institute of America, Preservation Action, the Society for American Archaeology, the Society for Historical Archaeology, the United States Committee of the Blue Shield, and the U.S. National Committee of the International Council of Museums.
Once signed by President Obama and by imposing import restrictions on Syrian material culture, the U.S. will be joining the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and the European Union in taking steps to protect trafficked antiquities from Syria.
A complete copy of the approved amended Bill is located here.
Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs welcomed the Senate passage of his legislation.
On the House floor Chairman Royce spoke about combating ISIS’s destruction and looting of artifacts from the birthplace of civilisation. Below is a video that includes Chairman Royce’s remarks. A written transcript of his remarks can be found here.