Tuesday, December 9, 2014

CCP Raises Concerns about HR 5703

The Committee for Cultural Policy has written responsible members of Congress expressing concerns about HR 5703, a bill that purports to protect and preserve international cultural property.

According to the letter,

Unfortunately HR 5703 as written is likely to make a bad situation even worse.  The bill assumes cultural property may be “saved” by repatriating it back to unstable, war torn nations without conditions. Blind application of these remedies may well lead to such miscarriages of justice as the seizure of Jewish and Christian religious artifacts from refugees and return of that property to the very instigators of their persecution.   The bill calls for a White House coordinator, but that coordinator will only consult with academics and foreign governments thereby ensuring even greater damage to the legitimate trade and, as a result, the American Public. The bill also provides the State Department permanent grant making authority without requiring any transparency or analysis of potential conflicts.  This is particularly troubling because many of the bill’s supporters stand to gain financially or professionally from such grants. The bill also bypasses the Cultural Property Advisory Committee and its recommendations based on the 1983 Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act which thoughtfully balances the needs for cultural property protection in situations precisely like those we face currently in Syria.  Finally the Bill does nothing to resolve the inherent conflict between DOJ’s selective application of untested foreign ownership laws against US parties and DOS’s sloppy administration of the CCPIA.  In fact, the bill makes this worse by setting an arbitrary date for determination of illegality and giving DOJ broad powers to question any and all objects already in the US without establishing any safe harbor for legitimately acquired objects.

The CCP has also analyzed the bill further here.    

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