Thieves of Baghdad - And of the World's Cultural Property

February, 2006


Ultimately, we must develop a comprehensive global strategy that joins all the elements of international power to combat the illicit antiquities trade in several meaningful and complementary ways. First, the strategy must include an aggressive but measured campaign to increase public awareness of the importance of cultural property, improve recognition of the magnitude of the current crisis, and create a climate of universal condemnation of trafficking in unprovenanced antiquities.

Second, there must be a greater level of cooperation not only between different law-enforcement agencies, but also between law-enforcement on the one hand and the art and archaeological communities on the other. The latter are needed to act as law enforcement's eyes and ears, as on-call experts for authenticating and identifying intercepted shipments, and for providing crucial in-court expert testimony. The art and archaeological communities should also request the appropriate law-enforcement personnel (depending on country and focus) to provide detailed, factual briefings at every single conference in the future that purports to address art or antiquities smuggling. The call for up-to-date investigative facts should become as standard as the call for papers.

Finally, every country and international organization should be pressured to increase its funding for specialized and expanded art and antiquities task forces. Interpol's member nations should fund a robust staff dedicated to Iraqi antiquities, and private foundations desirous of helping should fund resources such as vehicles, computers, communications assets, and quarterly international conferences, seminars, and training for such specialized squads.

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