The recent large-scale looting of archaeological sites across Syria at the hands of ISIS has brought the devastating effects of the illegal international antiquities market into stark relief. Not only are these illicit excavations irreparably destroying human history, they also enable ISIS to sell Syria’s cultural property to fund their jihad. This note examines the international and domestic laws that regulate this illicit antiquities trade. This note further identifies that, while these laws provide a meaningful legal framework, their ineffective implementation prevents them from effectively regulating the illicit antiquities market. Without effective market regulation, buyers in art market countries will continue to purchase the illicit Syrian antiquities that fund terrorist organizations, which will further incentivize the clandestine market. As the world’s leading antiquities markets, the United States is responsible to effectively implement the governing law. This Note proposes two ways to accomplish this. First, U.S. customs officers must use innovative technology such as soil analysis to identify illicit cultural property at the U.S. border, preventing its import. Second, amending the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to include cultural property crimes will facilitate the successful prosecution of entire trafficking networks and deter participation in the market. These steps are necessary to preserve the world’s heritage for generations to come.
Blood Antiquities: Preserving Syria’s Heritage,
Chi.-Kent L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/cklawreview/vol92/iss1/13