Interpol meet aims to better protect cultural heritage

Friday, March 13, 2015
[PHOTO: Special Arrangements] 
Lyon: Safeguarding the world’s cultural heritage from crime and the dangers of conflict is the focus of the 9th International Symposium on the Theft of and Illicit Traffic in Works of Art, Cultural Property and Antiques at INTERPOL’s General Secretariat headquarters.

The three-day event (11 – 13 March) will highlight current crime issues in this area and provide a platform for the international police community, agencies and organizations to identify ways to better protect cultural heritage through closer collaboration.

The need for greater information sharing via INTERPOL’s global channels to recover stolen heritage and disrupt the criminal networks trafficking them will also be highlighted at the meeting.

More than 100 delegates from some 40 countries will review investigative and legal case studies, at a time when the illicit trafficking of cultural property, and its destruction, have become more prevalent in some regions due to instability and terrorism.

In February, for example, extremists from the so-called Islamic State group took sledgehammers and pickaxes to collections in the Mosul Museum in Iraq, some dating back 3,000 years.

With INTERPOL noting an increasing trend of illicit trafficking in cultural objects in the aftermath of crises in the Middle East, INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock said at the meeting:
“The black market in works of art is becoming as lucrative as those for drugs, weapons and counterfeit goods, with ancient artefacts also representing a potential source of great wealth for terrorist groups.”

The United Nations Security Council last month approved Resolution 2199, calling for countries to take appropriate steps to prevent the trade in Iraqi and Syrian cultural property. It also recognized the global role of INTERPOL in addressing this illicit trade.

In this respect, INTERPOL has developed expertise and tools to help police as well as public and private entities detect and identify stolen works of art. Auction houses for example can consult more than 45,000 records in INTERPOL’s database of stolen works of art.

INTERPOL works closely with international partners, governmental and non-governmental organizations to protect the world’s cultural heritage.

These include the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), the International Council of Museums (ICOM), the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Customs Organization (WCO).
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