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Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation ends 13th session

11-02-2005 5:50 pm The Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation has expressed its concern over the continued pillaging of cultural objects in Iraq and urged UNESCO and its partners, ICOM, INTERPOL and the Italian Caribinieri, to continue their efforts to stem the illicit trafficking of Iraqi cultural heritage. The Committee, comprising 22 Member States, is responsible for seeking ways and means of facilitating bilateral negotiations for the restitution or return of cultural property to its countries of origin, and promoting such restitution.

At its 13th session, which ended at UNESCO Headquarters yesterday evening, the Committee also urged Member States to adopt a model Export Certificate for Cultural Objects, which has been developed by UNESCO and the World Customs Organization to facilitate surveillance of such objects and stem illicit trafficking in this domain.

It further decided to submit draft principles pertaining to cultural objects displaced during the Second World War for examination at the next session of the General Conference (October 2005).

The Committee also took note of the continuing cooperation between the British Museum and Greek museums over the issue of the Parthenon Marbles, and invited UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura to help organize more meetings between the United Kingdom and Greece, “with a view to resolving the question […]taking in account at the same time the sensitivities of both sides.” It also invited Germany and Turkey “to continue comprehensive bilateral negotiations” over the Sphinx of Boğusköy, which is currently on display at the Berlin Museum.

UNESCO Director-General, Koïchiro Matsuura, in his closing address to the Committee, pointed out that “the issues surrounding the return and restitution of cultural property are attracting greater attention than ever before.” “In this context,” he added, “UNESCO continues to be committed to promote its normative and safeguarding action.”

Mr Matsuura also expressed his pleasure over “the steady increase of the number of States Parties to the UNESCO 1970 and the UNIDROIT 1995 Conventions.” The 1970 Convention, concerning the measures to be adopted to forbid and prevent importation and transfer of illicit property of cultural goods, counts 106 States Parties. Its complement in private law, the UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects, has 23.

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Source Press Release No 2005-18

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