Cyprus plans to organise a series of activities that would kick-start a new criminal law convention to combat illicit trafficking in cultural property, during its Presidency of the Council of Europe, between November 2016 to May 2017, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides has said.
Kasoulides, who was addressing on Thursday, a High-Level Meeting on cultural heritage, organised by the Foreign Ministries of Jordan and Italy, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in NYC, said that last March Cyprus led a cross-regional Statement on the protection of cultural heritage in armed conflicts in the framework of the Human Rights Council.
The statement was co-sponsored by a staggering number of 146 members and observer states of the HRC, thus, as he pointed out, putting the issue of cultural heritage firmly in the Human Rights agenda.
The Cypriot minister also said that in a few days, in collaboration with a core group of partners, Cyprus will present at the 33rd Session of the HRC in Geneva, a comprehensive Resolution on “Cultural rights and the protection of cultural heritage”.
“Yet, what we see as imperative is the active role of the UN Security Council on this issue, and particularly on the crucial issue of the provenance of cultural artefacts. As you are well-aware, the main obstacle encountered in securing the restitution of looted cultural property is the proof of identification by the claimant country, especially for objects that have not been inventoried or adequately documented”, he said.
According to Kasoulides, the burden of proof must not fall to the claimant state for the blocking of auctioning suspicious objects and, eventually, for the restitution of artefacts.
He pointed out that was is of most importance, is a robust UNSC Resolution through which purchases of artefacts originating from conflict zones are not considered “bona fide” purchases and which will apply universal limitations on the trade and transfer of artefacts originating from all conflict zones, with the obligation of proof of legitimate trade resting upon the traders, auction houses and buyers and not on the originating state.