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 illegal activities in the field of cultural heritage. These include 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.
There is strong support from the international community for the Council of Europe’s initiative. A recent conference in Strasbourg was attended by high-level representatives from the International Criminal Court and UNESCO, the United Nations body that specialises in protecting world heritage and culture.