The Council of Europe`s Nicosia Convention on offences related to cultural property, was signed, on Friday, by the first six states, paving the way for it to be ratified and put into effect.
The Convention was opened for signatures during a ceremony at the Filoxenia conference centre in Nicosia, where the 127th Ministerial Meeting of the Council of Europe takes place. Cyprus, Armenia, Greece, Portugal, San Marino and Mexico were the first six to sign it.
Addressing the ceremony the Council of Europe`s Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland said that the “Blood Antiquities” Convention, as he called it, “will be the missing piece of the international jigsaw.” As a criminal law convention, he added, it completes the international framework against cultural trafficking established by previous conventions.
On his part Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council and Cyprus` Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides called on states “to sign and ratify the Nicosia Convention as soon as possible we have a collective responsibility to protect our cultural heritage and the heritage of mankind.”
The Convention has already been unanimously adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
Nicosia Convention a truly global instrument, Council of Europe SG says
“The Council of Europe has a long history in strengthening international legal protection for heritage, architectural and archaeological,” Jagland said, adding that “we also have a long history strengthening Europe`s legal protection against terrorism.”
The new convention, he noted, “aims to do both things protecting shared precious heritage while denying funding to DAESH and others.”
Right now, the Council of Europe Secretary General said that “what these terrorists do they transport to Europe, North Africa, America and Asia and elsewhere to sell to the highest bidder.”
They benefit, he added, “from the many inconsistencies which exist between national legislation frameworks, from laws which are weakly enforced and from insufficient international cooperation.”
“The new Treaty aims to address these problems,” he stressed.
It will cover countries outside Europe, Jagland said, adding that it will cover any state which is a party to the UNESCO Convention. Countries such as Syria are unlikely to join the Convention in the near future but their heritage needs protection now, he stressed.
“Our aim is to make this a truly global instrument and I would like to thank all of you for signing today, for helping to lead the way,” the Council of Europe`s top official noted.
Crucial leap forward in the protection of cultural heritage, Kasoulides says
In his address Kasoulides said that “today the international community takes a crucial leap forward in the protection of our cultural heritage, especially in the efforts to combat the trade in blood antiquities by transnational organised crime and terrorist networks.”
Today, he added, “the Council of Europe opens for signature the only international treaty specifically dealing with the criminalisation of the illicit trafficking of cultural property.”
He explained that the Nicosia Convention “establishes a number of criminal offences, including theft, unlawful excavation, import and export, illegal acquisition and placing on the market and other such activities.”
“It also promotes international cooperation in this field and in essence the Convention will effectively enhance the international legal frameworks against cultural trafficking,” he added.
Kasoulides also pointed out that “the protection of cultural heritage has been a priority for Cyprus, priority we pursued in the Human Rights Council and other fora and very importantly during the Cyprus Chairmanship of the Council of Europe.”