Cyprus, Greece, Portugal and San Marino as well as Mexico became the
first countries on Friday to sign the convention drafted by the
Strasbourg-based Council of Europe during a meeting in Nicosia.
convention is designed to "codify" and standardize criminal law against
the excavation, importation and exportation, acquisition and placing of
artifacts on the market.
is the first convention for the protection of cultural heritage in the
world which deals with criminal offences against cultural property -
from destruction to the theft and aiding and abetting by selling
artifacts, thus financing terrorism and encouraging this to take place,"
Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides told Reuters Television.
"If there are no buyers, there are no looters," he said.
bringing national legislations up to the same standards, the treaty
aims to close existing loopholes and enable much more effective
cross-border cooperation in investigating, prosecuting and sentencing
persons suspected of the offences listed in the convention, according to
the Council of Europe.
will harmonize legislation of member states thus making it easier for
police forces to cooperate," said Thorbjorn Jagland, secretary-general
of the council.
council says the issue has taken on extra urgency because of wars in
Syria and Iraq, the cradle of some of the world's most treasured
cultures. Some estimates, Kasoulides said, suggested groups like Islamic
State had earned about $150 million from selling off antiquities.
Cyprus, ethnically split in a
Turkish invasion after a brief Greek-inspired coup in 1974, has often
resorted to legal action to recoup stolen artifacts smuggled out after
the conflict by art dealers.
one case, Cypriot officials spent weeks in U.S. courts trying to
reclaim priceless icons and mosaics dating from the 6th century that had
been hacked off walls by smugglers and made their way through Europe to
the United States. Some of those recovered now hang on walls at a
museum in the capital Nicosia.
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)