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Archaeology Matters

CBA calls on UK government to stop cultural property funding Islamic militants

CBA director Mike Heyworth is a co-signatory to a letter published in The Times today alongside other prominent signatories calling on the British government to ratify a convention to protect looted antiquities, art, books and archives from sale and destruction.

The convention dates back to 1954 and despite being raised on numerous occasions since, such as following the occupation of Iraq in 2004, then again in 2008, the UK government remains one of the few powers with an interventionist foreign policy, not to have ratified the convention.

Failure to act at this juncture increases the risk of stolen cultural property being used to fund the aggressive military action of ISIS.

The full letter reads as follows, and more comment and analysis is available on the Times’ website:


Yesterday’s debate in the House of Commons regarding the looting and destruction of cultural property in Syria both as a tool of war, and as a means of funding ISIS through the sale of looted antiquities, coincided with the unanimous adoption by the UN Security Council of Resolution 2199 condemning trade in oil, antiquities and hostages with Al-Qaida associated groups.

The deliberate destruction of cultural property during conflict and the sale of looted antiquities, art, books, and archives, are banned under the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the event of Armed Conflict. The UK committed to ratify the Convention in 2004 after the widespread destruction and looting that followed the invasion and occupation of Iraq. However, successive governments have failed to ratify, claiming lack of Parliamentary time. As a result, the UK remains as arguably the most significant military power (and the only one with extensive military involvements abroad) not to have ratified the Convention.

A draft Bill was scrutinised in 2008 and needs only minor amendment to be passed into law. Can the current Government not put rhetoric aside for action and ratify a Convention that has cross-Party and cross-Departmental support before the dissolution of Parliament?

Yours faithfully

Professor Peter Stone OBE FSA MIFA*
Chair, UK National Committee of the Blue Shield

The Earl of Clancarty
House of Lords (Cross Bench)

Mr Mike Heyworth MBE
Director, Council for British Archaeology

Mr Peter Hinton
Chief Executive, Chartered Institute for Archaeologists

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