David Burrowes MP and Mayor of London Boris Johnson joined together last week with other members of both Houses of Parliament in vowing to stop London’s art market being used by terrorists to sell trafficked antiquities. The parliamentarians also backed the idea of London becoming a safe haven for works of art that have been looted from war zones and cannot yet be safely returned.
They were speaking at the launch of a new All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Protection of Cultural Heritage which will be led by David Burrowes, MP for Enfield Southgate and Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, who is a distinguished archaeologist and Cambridge University professor.
The APPG will raise awareness of the illegal sale of looted antiquities which have been identified by the UN Security Council as a major source of funding for terrorists. It will also work for police and customs to be given the necessary resources to combat art trafficking, and where necessary for changes in the law.
The group’s creation follows David Cameron’s promise to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in Times of War, a treaty designed to prevent looting. The prime minister has also pledged to implement the EU Directive on the return of cultural objects unlawfully removed from the territory of a Member State.
Last week’s event and the work of the APPG are being supported by Walk of Truth, an NGO which aims to involve ordinary people in global efforts to protect cultural heritage from violence and war. Walk of Truth is launching a project called Cultural Crime Watchers Worldwide, which will empower people to share tips about trafficked art anonymously.
David Burrowes said: “I welcome the Mayor’s call for an action plan for London to protect cultural heritage. We now must get a firm timetable for the legislation to implement the Hague Convention and protocols. The endorsement of the Walk of Truth’s cultural crime watchers worldwide by the Mayor, Police and key stakeholders must now be taken forward. London is well placed to be a protector of stolen cultural heritage and our APPG will do what we can to help deliver.”