State Department in Contravention of the Law?

Mar 30, 2011, 07:07 ET from Cultural Policy Research Institute

WASHINGTON, March 30, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- At a Capitol Hill seminar held Monday, March 21, former members of the President's Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) asserted that CPAC, the body set up to determine the validity of foreign country requests to restrict cultural goods imported into the United States, has disregarded the criteria established by the law that created it, and that the Cultural Heritage Center of the Department of State, which provides support to CPAC, had cloaked its operations in secrecy, very possibly to conceal an abuse of power.

The allegations of improper and possibly illegal conduct were made at a panel session held under the auspices of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and with the sponsorship of the Cultural Policy Research Institute. The panel was convened to discuss whether the Cultural Property Implementation Act of 1983 was working or had, as one participant suggested, become a "train wreck".

The panel included experts in the fields of archaeology, museums, nonprofit cultural institutions, the trade in art, US customs practice and cultural property law.  During the discussion it was suggested that the Act was intended not just to save objects, but to save context and heritage. However, strong concerns were voiced that limitations placed by the Act on the ability of the US Government to enter into agreements with other countries to impose import restrictions had been ignored, and that a provision requiring U.S. restrictions to be part of a "concerted international response" had been violated in a manner that discriminated against Americans and that moved the trade abroad. Special attention was given to the conduct of the Department of State which it was alleged has turned the Committee into a rubber stamp for the archaeological view without regard to the Committee balance intended by the framers of the Act and which has on notable occasions, unilaterally and without informing the Committee, overridden decisions made by the Committee itself.

Seminar summary at Full transcript available soon.

CPRI is a 501(3)(c) nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing public education and understanding of the issues that underlie the ownership and disposition of cultural property.

CPRI is dedicated to the study of national and international policies to protect and preserve the world's antiquities, monuments, and archaeological sites, and to advancing human knowledge for the benefit of all.

Contact: Kate Fitz Gibbon,

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SOURCE Cultural Policy Research Institute