The Interpol/Bonhams case could not possibly have involved the Islamic State. What happened?

As I’ve noted in an initial update to my post on the Sunday Times‘ article, Paul Barford’s identified an incorrect statement regarding evidence that the Islamic State is looting antiquities.

The Sunday Times presented a specific and detailed case, which concluded: ‘”That was intercepted by Interpol,” she [the Chief of the Arab States Unit of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre (WHC), Nada Al Hassan] said, adding that it was a “success story” because there was proof that ISIS had been responsible for digging it up.’

When Paul queried the statement, because the object had been on the market since before the Islamic State (or any of its ancestral organisations) existed, Al Hassan told him that the journalists had misunderstood her. That’s quite a misunderstanding. (He and I are both looking into matters.)

Misreported evidence [update (25th July 2014)]

Nada Al Hassan has very kindly explained what happened.

The Sunday Times journalist made a reference to ISIS in a photo caption. However, this was the journalist’s own mistake and was corrected by her as soon as she realised it.
I did not give any such information to the journalist and did not refer to ISIS in the interview.

How did the journalist first mistakenly use INTERPOL’s case as current evidence, then mistakenly attribute Al Hassan’s comments about something else to that case, which “corroborated” the case’s reality and relevance?

Public understanding

It’s lucky that Paul picked up on it. But how many other such misunderstandings have entered the public record? On such a hot topic, with so few sources and so little evidence, any incorrect information could have a negative impact on public understanding. Especially when intelligence services won’t share illicit antiquities data with their own states’ archaeological services, open-source data is critical for anti-trafficking action. Thankfully, UNESCO appears to be more responsive than the Daily Mail, so hopefully this will be cleared up soon.

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3 Responses to “The Interpol/Bonhams case could not possibly have involved the Islamic State. What happened?”

  1. I would have thought Bonhams might have had something to say to the Sunday Times, too.

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