Tuesday, December 5, 2017
"Emergency" Restrictions on Libyan Cultural Goods Imposed
U.S. Customs has announced so-called "emergency" import restrictions on Libyan cultural goods. Once again, grossly over-hyped fears of illicit antiquities funding terrorism appears to be the primary justification for rushing through this dubious request, even though it meets few, if any, of the statutory criteria and it is doubtful the militias running the country will protect any artifacts that may be repatriated under the agreement.
The sheer breadth of the "designated list" also raises concerns. The Cultural Property Implementation Act contemplates that any “emergency restrictions” will be far narrower than "regular" ones. They focus on material of particular importance, but no “concerted international response” is necessary. The material must be a “newly discovered type” or from a site of “high cultural significance” that is in danger of “crisis proportions.” Alternatively, the object must be of a civilization, the record of which is in jeopardy of “crisis proportions,” and restrictions will reduce the danger of pillage.
Yet, here, import restrictions have been imposed on virtually all Libyan cultural goods. And despite the lack of "cultural significance" all coin types that were made or circulated within Libya down to 1750 A.D. are now potentially subject to restrictions. At least in a bow to the CPIA's wording limiting such restrictions to items "first discovered" within Libya, the regulations contain some belated acknowledgement any restricted coins must also be "found" there. (Previous import restrictions on coins have improperly equated where they are found with where they are minted, though they are items of commerce that typically circulated widely.)