British Parliament Considers Action on ISIS’s Trafficking of Antiquities

A parliamentary debate on the issue of antiquities trafficking in Syria and Iraq is due to take place in the UK’s House of Commons in the coming weeks, the Art Newspaper reports.

British politicians are asking for an increase in the collaboration between law-enforcement agencies, the art industry, and foreign governments, to stem the illicit trafficking of antiquities, thought to be one of Islamic State’s major revenue streams, alongside the sale of oil and ransom payments (see Syria’s Cultural Artifacts Are Blood Diamonds for ISIS and Is ISIS Bankrolling Terrorist Activities with Stolen Antiquities?).

“This is the greatest scale of looting we have seen since the Second World War,” Robert Jenrick, a Conservative MP and former director of Christie’s, told TAN. Jenrick is one of the initiators of the campaign, alongside the Conservative MP Hugo Swire, a former director at Sotheby’s. According to TAN, Jenrick has already been in contact with several US politicians, to foster a UK-US agreement.

The concerns of the UK campaigners resonate with recent initiatives by several Western countries, designed to curtail the growing problem of antiquities trafficking bankrolling terrorism (see Increase in Antiquities Smuggling Busts amidst Government Crackdown). In late 2014, Germany and the US proposed new legislations to control the traffic across borders and protection of cultural artifacts, while Australia announced it would review its current laws (see Could US Cultural Protection Czar Stop Rampant ISIS Looting? and $5.6 Looted Shiva Spurs Australia to Review its Import and Export Laws for Cultural Artifacts).

Jenrick told TAN that the major auction houses are working hard to prevent illicit trade, but that they need support. Thus, the UK campaign seeks steadfast enforcement of the existing laws, as well as to increase the resources of the Metropolitan Police’s Art and Antiques Squad.

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