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01 April 2015

Protecting cultural heritage requires a global response, says INTERPOL Chief

PARIS, France – INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock has highlighted the need for a concerted international effort to prevent the illicit trade in cultural heritage by terrorist groups such as the Islamic State.

Attending a high-level meeting convened by UNESCO regarding implementation of a recent United Nations Security Council resolution on the safeguarding of Iraqi and Syrian cultural items, Secretary General Stock underlined INTERPOL’s ongoing role in centralizing information on stolen cultural heritage and assisting member countries in identifying, locating and repatriating trafficked items.

“Preserving the rich history of the Middle East, which is increasingly threatened by the actions of terrorist groups, is a global responsibility which requires a coordinated global response to
raise awareness and bring an end to the destruction and looting of our priceless cultural heritage,” said the INTERPOL Chief.

In February, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2199 which calls on INTERPOL, UNESCO and other partners to support the efforts of member countries to prevent the trade in stolen Iraqi and Syrian cultural items.

Addressing the meeting, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said: “Violent extremists are showing fierce determination to destroy heritage, to vandalize culture, to attack museum visitors. This is why we have gathered today, bringing together all key partners for safeguarding humanity’s shared heritage, to craft new ways to fight these crimes.”

Central to INTERPOL’s role as a global platform for collecting and sharing information on stolen cultural heritage is its Works of Art database, which contains details of more than 45,000 objects accessible by users in law enforcement, customs authorities, international organizations and the private art industry.

In addition, INTERPOL coordinates training for law enforcement and customs officials on how to detect and counter the illicit trafficking of cultural heritage, and maintains an operational network of national police agencies and specialists from partner organizations through the INTERPOL Expert Group on Stolen Cultural Property.

The meeting at UNESCO headquarters brought together representatives from key international organizations including INTERPOL, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World Customs Organization (WCO), the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) to strengthen cooperation and draft a roadmap for implementation of the Security Council resolution.