High-level representatives from international organisations and national governments, as well as academic experts, are in Strasbourg today for a colloquy aimed at strengthening cooperation to protect cultural heritage from wanton destruction and preventing the illicit trafficking of cultural goods.
Organised jointly by the Cypriot chairmanship of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers and its Secretary General, Thorbjørn Jagland, the event is focussing on the illicit excavation, sale and acquisition of cultural property, which has become a lucrative trade often linked to cross-border organised crime and terrorism. Notably in Iraq and Syria, Daesh has been plundering the region’s cultural heritage, deliberately destroying important archeological sites such as Palmyra and profiting from the sale of valuable stolen artefacts.
Keynote speakers include Ioannis Kasoulides, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO and Mammoun Abdulkarim, the Director-General of the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums in Syria and Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Also addressing the event are Hans-Holger Herrnfeld, Chair of the Committee on Offences relating to Cultural Heritage, and Anna Veneziano, the Deputy Secretary-General of UNIDROIT.
The Council of Europe is currently preparing a new Convention on Offences related to Cultural Property, which will become the only international treaty focusing on criminal measures and sanctions on illicit activities in the field of cultural heritage.