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Security Council - Briefing on the destruction of cultural heritage in armed conflicts

Date:

03/24/2017


Security Council - Briefing on the destruction of cultural heritage in armed conflicts

Briefing delivered by 2017 by the Brigadier General Fabrizio Parrulli, Carabinieri Commander for the Protection of Cultural Heritage
(Carabinieri TPC) , at the Security Council meeting on “Maintenance of International Peace and Security: destruction of cultural heritage by terrorist groups and in situations of armed conflict” ---

Thank you Mr. President to give me the floor and to the Security Council for this important meeting.

Mr. President, the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage (Carabinieri TPC) is the world’s first police unit specialized in the protection of cultural property. Since its foundation in 1969, it has been on the frontline in the fight against trafficking in cultural heritage. To date, our investigations have led to the recovery of almost eight hundred thousand works of art and the seizure of more than one million archaeological artefacts. We have investigated some 35 thousand people and detained more than one thousand. These figures demonstrate the Carabinieri Corps’ steadfast commitment to defending the world’s collective traditions and history.

Trafficking in Cultural Property is more often than not a transnational crime that requires a transnational investigative approach. Objects are stolen from one country, smuggled across the border or borders of others, sold illegally in another, and ultimately, perhaps, find a home in yet another. INTERPOL provides pivotal international police cooperation, but it is not always enough. The looting and smuggling of cultural property is a complex crime that requires a specific focus and unique expertise that goes beyond the usual toolkit of police personnel. The only way to successfully protect cultural heritage is through close interagency work across borders.

In this framework, the Carabinieri TPC serves as a model for other Countries, engaging in international cooperation at the judicial, law enforcement, and specialist levels. And we strongly advocate the creation of specialized police units for the protection of cultural heritage in every Country. In our search for cultural artefacts that have been exported from Italy, we often end up helping other Countries track down and repatriate their own looted properties. We have also been deployed on international cooperation missions, such as the mission to Nasiriya in Iraq in 2004-5, pursuant to Security Council resolution 1483 (2003).

The Carabinieri TPC also provides training, in Italy and abroad, for judges and prosecutors, police officers, customs officials, as well as experts and practitioners from culture ministries, and we have recently signed technical arrangements with several national and international stakeholders. To improve international police cooperation in the protection of cultural heritage, we share information, best practices and lessons learned.

Our most powerful tool, “the database of stolen cultural artefacts,” stores more than 1.2 million images and files on stolen artefacts, and more than 6 million pictures and descriptions of artworks that have been covered in our investigations. Originally the biggest stolen artefacts archive in the world, it is now a powerful data analysis tool for processing data entries and aiding our investigations.

Our latest initiative is the “Unite4Heritage” Task Force, which made its successful debut in the aftermath of the terrible series of earthquakes that struck Italy in late 2016. The Task Force is a team of specialized Carabinieri TPC personnel working with civilian experts from the Ministry of Culture to:

Assess the risks and quantify the damage to cultural heritage in crisis-affected areas and devise the necessary action plans;

Provide training courses for local staff;

Assist in the safe removal of transportable artefacts from endangered or looted sites; and

Strengthen the fight against looting and trafficking in cultural property.

Together with UNESCO, we are now working on a stand–by agreement that will allow the deployment of the Unite4Heritage Task Force overseas under the UN flag. Meanwhile we are liaising on a bilateral basis with several Countries, including, most recently, Iraq. I was just at the UNESCO field Office in Bagdad to identify venues of cooperation to address archaeological areas devastated and looted by DA’ESH.

The Unite4Heritage campaign has raised awareness of the threats to cultural heritage, mobilized players beyond the cultural heritage communities, and expanded UNESCO’s efforts to coordinate technical work among different specialized agencies and institutions.

In light of the experience, success, and cutting-edge work of the Carabinieri TPC, I am honored to be here today to salute the approval of today’s historic Security Council Resolution. We welcome the spirit of the resolution as well as its effective measures, calling for unified procedures, stronger ties between Member States and Police forces, wider definition of crimes against cultural heritage, and stricter regulations on the illegal trade of items with undocumented origins.

 


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