At the IFAR Panel on CPAC (see below at http://culturalpropertyobserver.blogspot.com/2009/07/ifar-event-who-what-why-and-how-of.html), Patty Gerstenblith of DePaul University spoke about the legal basis for import restrictions under the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA). Prof. Gerstenblith served on CPAC as a member representing archaeological interests from 2000-2003. She illustrated her talk with pictures of looting at sites in Turkey and Iraq, contrasting those with an early illustration of excavations in present day Israel prepared by Sir Flinders Petrie. [Professor Gerstenblith neglected to mention that Petrie was a very serious collector of Egyptian antiquities. The University College. London, now houses his collection. See http://www.petrie.ucl.ac.uk/william_flanders_petrie.php]
Prof. Gerstenblith indicated that Art. 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention was concerned with "undocumented artifacts," which are "not known and not recorded, because they were stolen or illegally removed, including by the looting of archaeological sites before they are recorded." She further indicated that the CPIA was meant to address that concern, and that the Senate report makes clear that our foreign relations interests extend beyond our import markets.
Prof. Gerstenblith then explained that CPAC is comprised of eleven members, including individuals representing the public, archaeologists, experts in the international sale of cultural property and museums. She further indicated that CPAC's advises a decision maker in the State Department about the imposition of import restrictions. She also described the process as well as the necessary findings before import restrictions can be legally imposed. (For my own summary, see http://culturalpropertyobserver.blogspot.com/2008/07/short-recap-of-cultural-property.html).
At the end of her prepared comments, Professor Gerstenblith emphasized that import restrictions are not a ban. Rather, items can still be imported if they are accompanied either by an export certificate or proof the item left the country of origin before import restrictions were imposed. She did acknowledge, however, that many countries [like Cyprus] will not give export licenses for permanent export though they may allow for temporary loans of archaeological material for study or exhibition purposes.
During the question and answer period, Professor Gerstenblith [joined by fellow archaeologist Nancy Wilkie] defended Committee secrecy as both necessary for our foreign relations and to ensure that information does not become public that might be helpful to looters. [The other speakers strongly disagreed.] Professor Gerstenblith also acknowledged that it is difficult to verify the effect of import restrictions on looting in other countries, but that other self-help measures source countries take can be verified. She also maintained that the "concerted international response" requirement under the CPIA may be met through different means by different countries.
Professor Gerstenblith also indicated that MOU's are part of public diplomacy and that they encourage signatories to provide museums with benefits like long term loans. In particular, she stated, "[I]mport restriction is just the beginning of the process, not the end. It actually establishes a bilateral relationship with the other country."
Finally, in response to a question by Gerald Steibel, another former CPAC member who had represented the interests of dealers, Professor Gerstenblith acknowledged that no initial request had ever been denied, though an agreement with Canada had not been renewed and other agreements had been scaled back as compared to the original requests.