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 Background: An Introduction to International Cultural Property Protection in the U.S.

I. Introduction  
IIA. The Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act  
IIB. Provisions of the Cultural Property Implementation Act   
III. Role of the United States Information Agency (USIA)  
IV. Role of Other U.S. Government Agencies  

IIB. Provisions of the Cultural Property Implementation Act  

The Cultural Property Implementation Act (hereinafter, the "Act") and the 1970 UNESCO Convention draw a distinction between pillaged cultural property and stolen cultural property.  Sections 303 to 307 of the Act are concerned with the problem of pillage and illicit export of archaeological and ethnological material that is uninventoried and likely to reside in situ. Section 308 provides on-going protection for material that is stolen after it has been documented or inventoried within a collection.  

1. Protection of Archaeological and Ethnological Material in Jeopardy from Pillage.  

Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention provides that: any State Party whose cultural patrimony is in jeopardy from pillage of archaeological or ethnological material may request other State Parties to participate in a concerted international effort to carry out measures such as the control of exports, imports and international commerce in the material. Pending agreement, each State concerned shall take provisional measures to prevent irremediable injury to the cultural heritage of the requesting State. The key provisions that implement Article 9 in the Cultural Property Implementation Act are discussed below.  

a) Agreement Authority of Section 303 of the Act.  

Once certain determinations have been made on the basis of criteria set forth in this section, the president or his designee responds to the request from another State Party by imposing U.S. import restrictions on archaeological or ethnological material. Since the U.S. cannot enforce the export laws of another country, import restrictions create a mechanism for recovering the restricted material if it enters the U.S. without an export permit issued by the country of origin. An agreement under Section 303 may be bilateral or multilateral. Import restrictions imposed within the context of an agreement have a five-year effective period and may be renewed in five-year increments if certain conditions apply.  

b) Emergency Authority of Section 304 of the Act.  

This enables the president or his designee to take unilateral emergency action by imposing import restrictions for a limited period of time, not to exceed eight years. This provisional action may be taken in response to an Article 9 request by a State Party in accordance with Section 303 of the Act. Provisional emergency protection may be in effect until the terms of an agreement are negotiated. In order for emergency protection to be authorized by the president, the requesting State must submit, in addition to information relevant to criteria in Section 303 authorizing an agreement, information that supports a finding of an emergency as described in Section 304.  

c) Designation of Archaeological or Ethnological Materials Covered by Agreements or Emergency Actions under Section 305 

This section requires that a descriptive list designating the categories of archaeological or ethnological material that are subject to import restrictions under an agreement or emergency action be published, thereby giving fair notice to importers and others. The U.S. Customs Service publishes this list in the Federal Register after a determination has been made that import restrictions should be imposed.  

d) Import Restrictions on Archaeological or Ethnological Material as Provided by Section 307 

This Section authorizes the U.S. Customs Service to enforce import restrictions on designated archaeological or ethnological materials. No such materials, exported from the State Party after the designated list has been published in the Federal Register, may be imported in the U.S. without an export document issued by the State Party (country of origin) or other documentation showing it left the country of origin prior to the imposition of restrictions. Such import restrictions are enforceable even if the material is imported into the U.S. from a country other than the country of origin.  

Non-retroactivity: Import restrictions imposed either in the context of an agreement or emergency action do not apply to the subject material if it was out of the country of origin at the time the restrictions become effective in the U.S. U.S. implementing legislation is prospective in an effort to protect archaeological and ethnological material that remains in the country of origin at the time the import restriction goes into effect.  

2. Stolen Cultural Property - Section 308 of the Act.  

This section provides for a blanket import restriction on articles of stolen cultural property that is ongoing and not conditioned on a State Party request. It implements Article 7(b)(i) of the 1970 UNESCO Convention.  

Article 7(b)(i) has to do with prohibiting the import of articles of cultural property (broadly defined to include painting, sculpture, manuscripts, the decorative arts, etc., and not limited to archaeological or ethnological material) documented within an inventory of a museum or religious or secular public monument or similar institution in any State Party and which are stolen from such institutions.  

Under Section 308, no article of stolen cultural property originating in a State Party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention may be imported into the United States after the date the convention entered into force with respect to the State Party or the effective date of the Act (April 12, 1983) whichever date is later. [The enforcement of Sections 303, 304, and 308 of the Act rests with the U.S. Customs Service. ]  

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Revised: November 10, 1998
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