A conference examining the international response to the illicit trafficking and destruction of cultural artiifacts is now underway in Strasbourg.
In opening speeches this morning, Ioannis Kasoulides, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland and Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, all expressed fears about the activities of the ISIS (Daesh) terror group in Iraq and Syria.
Kasoulides said that ISIS destruction and plunder of the region’s cultural heritage amounted to “cultural genocide.” Its actions had placed the protection of our cultural heritage “firmly on the human rights agenda.”
Secretary General Jagland also condemned ISIS illicit trafficking of cultural property, which had become a “booming business” across the world.
“The world is being robbed of its shared heritage,” he warned, insisting that governments must respond to this “cultural cleansing.”
Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, shared this view , revealing that the cultural heritage of Syria and Iraq is being looted and destroyed “on an unprecedented scale and in an unprecedented manner.”
She looked forward to a planned Council of Europe treaty which would close some of the legal gaps which allow the trade in cultural property to flourish.