Resolutions of the UN Security Council

The fact that the protection of cultural property during armed conflicts and the fight against the illegal sale of cultural property are often two sides of the same coin has already been mentioned; the conflicts in Syria and Iraq and the associated sell-off of cultural objects are prime examples. Given that the existing instruments of international law have proved inadequate for the international community to combat these practices, the UN Security Council has adopted two Resolutions to counteract the illegal sale of cultural objects from Syria and Iraq. The first of these is the Iraq Resolution, S/RES/1483 (2003) of 22 May 2003 (para. 7), under which the member states shall take appropriate steps to facilitate the safe return to Iraqi institutions of Iraqi cultural property and other items of archeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific, and religious importance illegally removed from the Iraq National Museum, the National Library, and other locations in Iraq since the adoption of resolution 661 (1990) of 6 August 1990, including by establishing a prohibition on trade in or transfer of such items and items with respect to which reasonable suspicion exists that they have been illegally removed, and calls upon the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation, Interpol, and other international organisations, as appropriate, to assist in the implementation of this paragraph.

Resolution S/RES/2199 (2015) of 12 February 2015 is a subsequent response to the events in Syria and Iraq, and once again concerns the protection of world cultural heritage (paras 15-17).[1] [2] [3] [4] The Resolution condemns the destruction of cultural heritage and states with concern that Islamist groups are probably earning direct or indirect profits from the looting and smuggling of cultural heritage items and using these funds to recruit new members, strengthen their operational capacities, and undertake terrorist attacks. Following upon the Iraq Resolution, this Resolution accordingly seeks to prohibit the purchase and sale of Syrian cultural objects exported since 15 March 2011.

To implement the Iraq Resolution, the European Union has prohibited the import and export, the bringing into or removing from the territory of the Community, and all dealing in the cultural property in question, unless it can be shown that the cultural items were exported from Iraq prior to the date on which the embargo against Iraq was imposed.63 Violations are to be penalized in accordance with national law and are subject to prosecution in Germany under the Foreign Trade and Payments Act (AuRenwirtschaftsgesetz). As a preventative measure, the European Union promptly enacted the same rules for Syria.64

  • [1] Affirmative: Resolution of the General Assembly A/RES/69/281 ‘Saving the cultural heritage of Iraq’.
  • [2] Art. 3 of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1210/2003 of 7 July 2003 concerning certain specific restrictions on economic and financial relations with Iraq, OJ L 169/6.
  • [3] Art. 11c of Council Regulation (EU) No. 1332/2013 of 13 December 2013 amending Regulation (EU)No 36/2012 concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Syria, OJ L 335/3.
  • [4] See Sarah Dromgoole, The Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, 2nd edn, Leiden/Boston, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2006; Ronald Herzog, Kulturgut unter Wasser, Aachen, ShakerVerlag, 2002; K. Siehr, ‘Die UN-Konvention uber den Schutz des kulturellen Erbes unter Wasser und dasInternationale Sachenrecht’, in Michaela Wittinger, Rudolf Wendt, and Georg Ress (eds), Verfassung—Volkerrecht—Kulturguterschutz. Festschrift fur Wilfried Fiedler zum 70. Geburtstag, Berlin, Duncker &Humblot, 2011, pp. 447-60.
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