French President François Hollande Takes Action Against ISIS Trade in Looted Antiquities

Asylum applies to art and world heritage too, Hollande said.

François Hollande made the remarks in a speech at a UNESCO meeting in Paris. Photo: Laurent Troude via Liberation

François Hollande made the remarks in a speech at a UNESCO meeting in Paris.
Photo: Laurent Troude via Liberation

French president François Hollande announced plans to grant “asylum” to art and archeological treasures at risk of being destroyed by ISIS in an address at a UNESCO conference in Paris on Tuesday.

Hollande’s announcement follows the ISIS perpetrated terror attacks in Paris on Friday which claimed 129 lives.

“The right to asylum applies to people […] but asylum also applies to works, world heritage,” he said, adding that ISIS is working “at this very moment” on looting and then selling cultural artifacts on the black market.

Illicit antiquities are “transiting through free ports which are havens for receiving stolen goods and laundering, including in Europe,” he said.

François Hollande was greeted by UNESCO president Irina Bokova. Photo: Irina Bokova (@iriniabokova) via Twitter

François Hollande was greeted by UNESCO president Irina Bokova.
Photo: Irina Bokova (@iriniabokova) via Twitter

The French president went on to pledge the implementation of a legal framework to facilitate the safekeeping of threatened cultural heritage, which he said the French parliament would consider in the near future. He added the country would also adopt the UN Security Council resolutions banning the import, transit, and trade of illicit antiquities.

In the meantime, he announced that France will tighten up customs checks on its borders to identify smuggled illicit antiquities, AFP reported.

The move comes after the Association of Art Museum Directors—comprised of 242 members across the United States, Canada, and Mexico—published a list of protocols in October offering threatened museums around the world temporary safekeeping for their holdings.

Islamist militants have been systematically destroying the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. Photo: European Space Imaging/Digital Globe via BBC

Islamist militants have been systematically destroying the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra.
Photo: European Space Imaging/Digital Globe via BBC

ISIS has been systematically destroying historic sites across Syria and Iraq including the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra where militants blew up the Baal Shamin temple, the Temple of Bel and the city’s Roman-era Arch of Triumph.

The radical islamists also decapitated the 82-year-old Syrian antiquities expert Khaled al-Assad for refusing to reveal the location of valuable artifacts he had hidden, and executed three people by detonating explosives on ancient columns to which they had been tied.


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