UNESCO calls on US, UK to protect Iraq’s cultural heritage
Following the looting of the National Archaeological Museum of Baghdad, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has called on American and British authorities to take immediate measures to protect Iraq’s archaeological sites and cultural institutions.
The agency has also asked regional and international police organizations to join forces with it to prevent trafficking in the stolen antiquities.
In a letter of 11 April 2003 addressed to the American authorities, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura emphasized the urgent need to preserve collections and a heritage considered to be one of the richest in the world. He in particular insisted on the necessity of assuring military protection for the Archaeological Museum of Baghdad and the Mosul Museum. He made a similar request to the British authorities concerning the Basra region in the south.
To prevent the illicit export of Iraqi cultural goods, Mr. Matsuura contacted the authorities of countries bordering Iraq and international police and customs officials to ensure respect of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.
He asked INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization, the International Confederation of Art and Antiquities Dealer Associations (CINOA), the International Council of Museums (ICOM), the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), and the principal actors of the art market to join forces with UNESCO in a "comprehensive mobilization so that stolen objects should not find their way to acquirers".