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Terrorism Art and Antiquity Revenue Prevention Act

October 30, 2016

We want to alert all participants in Asia Week activities to proposed legislation by the US Senate, which would greatly affect the collecting and trading of antiquities.  Last month, on 16 September 2016, a bill called “Terrorism Art and Antiquity Revenue Prevention Act” was introduced in the US Senate as Senate Bill 3499, in the form of an amendment to the National Stolen Property Act, a criminal statute.
 
The purpose of the bill is to provide a means to prevent the import into the US of Iraqi and Syrian antiquities, which have been looted by ISIS and are being sold to fund their terrorist activities.  None of us objects to the goal of thwarting ISIS, but the extreme and all-encompassing measures outlined in the proposed bill would create extraordinary risks and penalties for all collectors, curators and dealers handling any kind of ancient art from any country in the world. The bill would give US Federal agencies virtually unlimited discretion to seize and repatriate any cultural artifacts on the basis of the assumption that they may possibly have been removed illicitly from the country of origin. The reach of the proposed bill extends to items, which may have been long traded and displayed in the US.
 
The proposed senate bill calls for criminal prosecution by amending the National Stolen Property Act to make it illegal to possess, sell or transport artifacts valued over $5,000, which may be considered stolen on the basis of a “national patrimony” or “national ownership” law that is consistently applied in that foreign country.
 
A long outline of the contents of the bill and the dangers it presents for all buyers, sellers, appraisers, curators, and collectors of antiquities of any kind is provided by the website of the Committee for Cultural Policy.
 
We strongly recommend that you read the content of this website link and consider supporting them with a donation.  We all should do our best to help with efforts to avoid such a wide-ranging overreaching bill as now has been proposed.  
 
We all support the goal of opposing ISIS in every way possible, but the enforcement of all foreign cultural property laws by US federal agencies is not an effective method, and it would give arbitrary power to prosecute and penalize innocent collectors, dealers, and curators seeking to exhibit, study, preserve, and trade in ancient art from around the world.