United Nations Security Council Resolution 2199: ban on wartime-exported antiquities from Syria and Iraq

UNESCO has published the text of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2199.(1) As expected, it prohibits any international trade in Syrian antiquities that have been exported since the 15th of March 2011. It also reaffirms its prohibition of any international trade in Iraqi antiquities that have been exported since the 6th of August 1990 (which certainly suggests that this legislation will not suffice on its own).

Conflict antiquities trading

In its preamble, it reiterates that ‘oilfields and their related infrastructure, as well as other infrastructure such as dams and power plants…, alongside extortion, private foreign donations, kidnap ransoms and stolen money from the territory they control’ all generate revenue for armed jihadists in Syria and Iraq; it implicitly acknowledges that human trafficking does likewise.

(In Article 10, it lists some of the economic resources that might be trafficked: ‘oil and oil products, modular refineries and related material, cash, and other valuable items including natural resources such as precious metals and minerals like gold, silver, copper and diamonds, as well as grain, livestock, machinery, electronics, and cigarettes’.)

It implicitly acknowledges destruction by non-jihadi groups, as Article 15

Condemns the destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria particularly by ISIL and ANF, whether such destruction is incidental or deliberate, including targeted destruction of religious sites and objects.

However, it does not acknowledge non-jihadist, politically-motivated armed groups’ participation in the conflict antiquities trade.

16. Notes with concern that ISIL, ANF and other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with Al-Qaida, are generating income from engaging directly or indirectly in the looting and smuggling of cultural heritage items from archaeological sites, museums, libraries, archives, and other sites in Iraq and Syria, which is being used to support their recruitment efforts and strengthen their operational capability to organize and carry out terrorist attacks.

Still, at least Article 17 reaffirms the Iraq antiquities ban (UNSCR 1483) and requires states to

prevent the trade in Iraqi and Syrian cultural property and other items of archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific, and religious importance illegally removed from Iraq since 6 August 1990 and from Syria since 15 March 2011, including by prohibiting crossborder trade in such items.

That’s something.

Arms (and arms-for-antiquities) trade

Also as expected, it requires states to ‘prevent the transfer of all arms and related materiel of all types, in particular man-portable surface-to-air missiles, if there is a reasonable suspicion that such arms and related materiel would be obtained by ISIL, the ANF or other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with Al-Qaida’, which appears to address Turkey (amongst others in the dirtiest corners of the war).


1: It had been initially drafted by Russia and shared with the other permanent members – China, France, the United Kingdom and the United States by the 4th of February, then was initially revised and shared with the non-permanent members – currently, Angola, Chad, Chile, Jordan, Lithuania, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Spain and Venezuela – on the 6th of February. In the end, 35 states co-sponsored the resolution.

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