Site Preservation News

November 1, 2004

Emergency Protection for Iraqi Cultural Antiquities Act Passes


The AIA has released a press release on the passage of the “Emergency Protection for Iraqi Cultural Antiquities Act of 2004”. The release is available in PDF format. Please distribute it to any interested individuals.


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On November 19, 2004, the Senate passed the “Emergency Protection for Iraqi Cultural Antiquities Act of 2004” which allows the President to impose import restrictions on any cultural materials illegally removed from Iraq, continuing a restriction on the import of such materials that has been in place since August 1990. Since the House passed this legislation earlier, the Senate’s action clears the way for the President to sign the bill into law.

This legislation allows the President to exercise his authority under the Cultural Property Implementation Act, the U.S.’s legislation implementing the 1970 UNESCO Convention, without the need for Iraq to bring a request. The legislation also defines the materials that may be protected more broadly than the CPIA normally does and includes all materials of “archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific or religious importance”. Senator Charles Grassley originally introduced this legislation in June 2003 in reaction to the looting of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad and the subsequent and ongoing massive pillage of archaeological sites, primarily of the Sumerian period, throughout southern Iraq. The legislation tracks United Nations Security Council Resolution 1483, which requires all members of the United Nations to prevent trade in cultural materials illegally removed from museums and other locations in Iraq.

At the time Senator Grassley introduced the bill, he stated: “I believe it is very important that we in Congress remain mindful of the need to take steps to protect Iraq’s cultural heritage. Our bill will ensure that going forward we continue to adhere to the full spirit of Resolution 1483 and avoid any break in the protections afforded to Iraqi antiquities. Our bill also provides an important signal of our commitment to preserving Iraq’s resources for the benefit of the Iraqi people.”

The AIA took an active role in advocating for passage of this legislation. The phone calls and emails of AIA members in support of this bill assisted in its enactment. The exact language of the statute follows:



This title may be cited as the `Emergency Protection for Iraqi Cultural Antiquities Act of 2004′.


(a) AUTHORITY- The President may exercise the authority of the President under section 304 of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (19 U.S.C. 2603) with respect to any archaeological or ethnological material of Iraq without regard to whether Iraq is a State Party under that Act, except that, in exercising such authority, subsection (c) of such section shall not apply.

(b) DEFINITION- In this section, the term `archaeological or ethnological material of Iraq’ means cultural property of Iraq and other items of archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific, or religious importance illegally removed from the Iraq National Museum, the National Library of Iraq, and other locations in Iraq, since the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 661 of 1990.


The authority of the President under section 3002(a) shall terminate on September 30, 2009.

US State Department – International Cultural Property Protection

UN Security Council Resolution

Swiss Ministry of Culture

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