As part of your coverage of today’s momentous debate in the British Parliament, it should be of interest to note that at a meeting in London earlier this week, the mayor of London Boris Johnson suggested another thing that could be done to combat terrorism – clamping down on the trade in looted antiquities which terrorists use to fund their activities.
Mr. Johnson was speaking at the launch of an All Party Parliamentary Group on cultural heritage. co-chaired by David Burrowes MP and Lord Colin Renfrew, a famous archaeologist. The meeting was organised by Walk of Truth, a Dutch-based NGO which campaigns to protect cultural heritage from violence and war.
At the meeting the Mayor called for the APPG to work with City Hall, police and experts, to draw up an Action Plan for London to cover:
• Proactive inter-city discussions with cities under cultural threat
• The policing response, drawing on the work of the MPS Art and Antiquities Unit
• Raising awareness in civil society
• Haven of disputed works of art/ temporary storage
• Work with London’s auction houses and legitimate traders
• Combatting the black market and antiquities trafficking
Mr. Johnson said: “Daesh and other terrorist organisations are hell bent on committing appalling acts of terrorism and murder around the world. In addition, they seek to destroy democracy and obliterate history. That’s why they see the destruction and looting of priceless antiquities and artefacts, in part to fund their violent activities, as central to their warped ideology of hate. And that’s why City Hall is working with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, the police, art dealers, auction houses and others both here and overseas in a bid to preserve and protect the world’s cultural heritage. London stands ready to provide a safe haven for the temporary storage of these irreplaceable artefacts until they can be returned to their home countries.”
Additional speakers at the APPG launch ceremony were Tasoula Hadjitofi, founder of Walk of Truth. Mrs Hadjitofi introduced Walk of Truth’s new project called Culture Crime Watchers Worldwide which is a platform for engaging the public into the responsibility of protecting cultural heritage in areas of conflict, but also empower people to share tips about trafficked art anonymously. Professor Peter Stone, UNESCO Chair Designate in Cultural Property Protection and Peace, and Clare Hutcheon, Head of Art & Antiques unit, New Scotland Yard were also amongst the experts who spoke at the ceremony.