The ACCG has filed the following comments on the State Department's last minute efforts to impose "emergency import restrictions" on Afghan cultural goods:
I am writing on behalf of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild to oppose the last-minute effort to impose import restrictions on Afghan cultural goods. We join the more substantial comments of IAPN and PNG but emphasize the following points. 1. CPAC should not allow a request by the "former government of Afghanistan” to provide cover for emergency import restrictions which can only benefit the Taliban. The State Department bureaucracy is engaging in sleight of hand. The Federal Register notice indicates that the former government sought a regular cultural property agreement, but that has now morphed into a request for emergency restrictions when there is no indication that the current Taliban Government has requested any such action or is even aware of it. In any case, the Taliban would have no standing to seek any such emergency import restrictions because the US does not yet recognize that government. 2. The criteria for emergency import restrictions found in 19 USC Section 2603 cannot be met, particularly with regards to coins. Bactrian coins are not “newly discovered material.” They have been studied and collected since at least the 19th century. Nor are they identifiable as coming from “any site of recognized to be of high cultural significance.” Indeed, Bactrian coins circulated widely throughout not only Afghanistan, but what is today Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan and India. Finally, there is no demonstrable evidence of current pillage of “crisis proportions” in Afghanistan. Instead, the Taliban have said they will protect archaeological sites, presumably by applying their harsh brand of Sharia law to any prospective looters. Speculation that looting may become a problem in Afghanistan is no substitute for facts. There is simply no hard evidence that there currently is looting of “crisis proportions” in the country. 3. Proponents of import restrictions on cultural goods often claim that they are anti-terrorist financing measures. However, perversely import restrictions could very well lead to repatriations of cultural goods to the Taliban which then can be resold to fund any Taliban supported terrorism. Proponents may claim because there are no current diplomatic relations with the Taliban items may be seized but will not be repatriated. However, repatriations to the State Party are mandated under 19 USC Section 2609, and there are certainly no guarantees repatriations will not happen soon. Unfortunately, the CPIA has no safe harbor provisions that make protection of cultural artifacts a paramount concern. Instead, there is an erroneous assumption in the UNESCO Convention and the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) that State Parties are the best stewards of cultural heritage when that is often not the case. Certainly, that is not the case here given the Taliban’s past theatrical destruction of pre-Islamic cultural heritage. The Taliban’s “unclean hands” should weigh heavily against CPAC approving any emergency import restrictions.