Obama could still save Bears Ears

Cedar Mesa, one of the estimated 100,000 archaeological sites in the proposed Bears Ears monument
Cedar Mesa, one of the estimated 100,000 archaeological sites in the proposed Bears Ears monument

Former Senator and U.S. Representative Mark Udall argues President Obama could still set aside the “Bears Ears” National Monument:

The president has a rare opportunity to advance this proud tradition by protecting a spectacular area critical to our western heritage: Bears Ears, a 1.9 million-acre area in southern Utah replete with thousands of historic and cultural sites.

President Obama has already demonstrated his commitment to preserving and protecting unique public treasures for generations to come. He did so with Chimney Rock in southwest Colorado and again with Browns Canyon in Chaffee County. I was proud to champion both bipartisan efforts to protect these landscapes for future generations.

The president now has the chance to preserve lands vital to our nation’s heritage and history with the support of five Native American tribes whose heritage is memorialized in this area. He should utilize the Antiquities Act to protect the Bears Ears region in southeast Utah — a site that represents our western pioneering history and that of the tribal communities across the region, including the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.

Numerous Native American tribes trace their roots to Bears Ears. In fact, the strongest voices in favor of a designation have come from the Ute Mountain Ute, Hopi, Navajo, Uintah and Ouray Ute, and Zuni tribes. The site also is home to artifacts from pioneers who made a home in the American West.

One of the prominent natural features in the landscape is Jacob’s Chair, named after my great-great grandfather, Jacob Hamlin, who was known as the Mormon Pathfinder. Hamlin spent his life working tirelessly to resolve conflicts that arose between the newly arrived settlers and the deeply rooted Native American tribes and bands already living in the area. His vision encompassed a future where both groups lived and worked together collaboratively, respecting each other’s traditions and beliefs, and living in harmony with the land. A Bears Ears National Monument would be a 21st century investment in that vision.

  1. Mark Udall, Still time for President Obama to save Bears Ears, The Denver Post (Nov. 20, 2016).

Stone on UK ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention

 

Peter Stone argues in the Art Newspaper that the UK ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention really is a big deal:

Is this really a big deal? Actually, yes it is, on all sorts of levels. Those of us in the heritage community are often told to stop complaining and to understand that in war things get damaged and destroyed. True, but from Sun Tzu in sixth-century BC China to Dwight Eisenhower in the 20th century, generals and military strategists have argued that the destruction of cultural heritage is bad military practice (not least because it frequently provides the first excuse for the next conflict).

There are at least seven different risks to heritage during conflict: lack of planning; spoils of war; collateral damage; military lack of awareness; looting; enforced neglect and specific targeting. All of them can be addressed to a greater or lesser extent, thereby reducing overall the impact. Protecting cultural heritage is not only important to specialised academic interests, heritage represents communal memory, and access to it has recently been argued to be a human right by the UN’s special rapporteur for cultural rights. It contributes to well-being and can foster post-conflict economic stability by encouraging tourism.

Finally, it is increasingly recognised as a military “force-multiplier”—protecting the heritage of your enemy may not win you many friends but it should ensure you do not make more enemies: a lesson hard-learnt from numerous recent cases where cultural heritage was ignored and not protected by occupying forces leading to unnecessary problems and casualties.

  1. Peter Stone, Why ratifying the Hague Convention matters, The Art Newspaper (2016.11.29).

Responses to criticism of heritage destruction trial at ICC

A traditional mud structure stands in the Malian city of Timbuktu May 15, 2012. Picture taken May 15, 2012. REUTERS/Adama Diarra
A traditional mud structure stands in the Malian city of Timbuktu May 15, 2012. Picture taken May 15, 2012. REUTERS/Adama Diarra

Apollo Magazine offers two brief but insightful Op-Eds on the recent heritage destruction trial at the ICC. Brian Daniels notes some of the controversy and responses to the guilty plea of Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi of intentionally destroying cultural heritage in Timbuktu in 2012. He notes the difference between crimes against people and crimes against art, but then rightly points out that the perpetrators of these acts see them differently:

Those who intend to do civilians harm have two goals: to eliminate that population and to remove any material evidence of that people’s existence. Mass killing and cultural destruction are simply two different stages in the same violent process of ethnic cleansing and genocide. If we consider the intent of violence against civilians, then the division collapses between crimes against human life and crimes against culture. Present-day oppressors and terrorists do not see this distinction in their actions. Neither should we.

Helen Walasek links the criticism of the Al Mahdi trial to similar criticism which took place during the Bosnian conflict:

Human-rights organisations commenting on the Al Mahdi case have all agreed that the intentional destruction of cultural property during armed conflict is a war crime. While some wished the indictment had been widened to include other war crimes, others gave unqualified support. The conviction of Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, said Human Rights Watch, sent ‘a clear message that attacking the world’s historical treasures will be punished’. Mark Ellis, chief executive of the International Bar Association and a war crimes expert, observed: ‘Destruction of cultural heritage is not a second-rate crime. It’s part of an atrocity to erase a people.’

  1. Is the destruction of cultural property a war crime?, Apollo Magazine (Nov. 28, 2016).

Note on Islamic State antiquities profits

Louis Vignes, Temple of Baalshamin, Palmyra, Syria (1864)
Louis Vignes, Temple of Baalshamin, Palmyra, Syria (1864)

Hannah Willett, a JD candidate at the University of Arizona has published a student note examining what U.S. criminal penalties could be used to prosecute the market end of antiquities which may pass through the Islamic State. Though many student notes can suffer from not having a full understanding of the scholarship examining illicit cultural heritage, this piece rises above the typical student note; perhaps owing to the fact that Ms. Willett undertook study at the Tulane-Siena summer program.

From the abstract:

The illicit antiquities market is a thriving international enterprise that has the potential to fuel wide-scale criminal and terrorist activity. Nonetheless, the economic and symbolic impact of cultural property exploitation has been largely overlooked.

This Note explores the role that the illegal antiquities market can and does play in facilitating terrorist activities, particularly in ISIS-controlled areas of the Middle East. It addresses the regulatory obstacles uniquely inherent to the trade of cultural property, and examines international, national, and online intermediary responses to looting and the market.

Finally, this Note proposes a multi-faceted, counteractive response to the trade. First, the Note highlights the potential for online intermediaries to serve as powerful choke points. It then draws attention to the undertheorized and underutilized mechanisms of U.S. domestic law that are readily employable to combat the illicit trade. Lastly, this Note emphasizes the important function that education can have in reducing consumer demand, and consequently, in disincentivizing participation at every step along the trade.

  1. Hannah D. Willett, Ill-Gotten Gains: A Response to the Islamic State’s Profits from the Illicit Antiquities Market, 58 Ariz. L. Rev. 831 (2016).

New article on Vietnam and the antiquities trade

Damien Huffer, Duncan Chappell, Lâm Thị Mỹ Dzung, and Hoàng Long Nguyên have published a work in Volume 14 of the Journal of Public Archaeology looking at the looting of antiquities in Vietnam. From the introduction:

The exact nature of the illicit antiquities trade from ground to market in Southeast Asia remains poorly known outside of Thailand and Cambodia, where most research has been focused. This paper helps to address this imbalance by documenting and contextualizing looting activities at the Bronze and Iron Age site of Vườn Chuối, located within urban Hanoi. A brief excavation history is provided so as to place recent looting into archaeological context. The methods used to document the recent and on-going looting observed are then discussed, followed by the nature of the current threat to Vườn Chuôi and a summation of what little is known about the Vietnamese antiquities trade in general and its relationship to regional antiquities trafficking. Finally, we discuss the current regulatory landscape in terms of constitutional, ownership, penal and international law, difficulties with enforcement and prosecution, and what course of action is needed not only to protect Vườn Chuôi and similar sites in and around Hanoi, but also to continue to raise public awareness of the archaeological repercussions of the trade itself.

  1. Damien Huffer et al., From the Ground, Up: The Looting of Vưườn Chuối within the Vietnamese and Southeast Asian Antiquities Trade, 14 Public Archaeology 224 (2015).

Comment on in-kind payments with art

"The Revolution (Mural)" by David Alfaro Siqueiros

“The Revolution (Mural)” by David Alfaro Siqueiros

Julia L.M. Bogdanovich, a senior editor of thePennsylvania Law Review has authored an interesting comment examining how artists could pay taxes with in-kind payment. She uses a comparative approach highlighting both Mexico and the United Kingdom. From the Introduction:

According to popular accounts, in 1957 David Alfaro Siqueiros marched into Hugo B. Margáin’s office with a radical and risky proposal. There, the famous muralist bluntly told the new Director of Income Tax that the recent income tax reforms were unduly burdening Mexico’s artists because they “did not know about accounting or tax laws” and had no money with which to pay their obligations. “The only thing we have are paintings,” Siqueiros insisted. However, rather than seek a complete tax exemption for artists, he told Margáin that artists could instead pay taxes with their artwork. Because their art was valuable, Mexico could amass an enviable collection. Tasked with ensuring the success of the new tax system,8 perhaps Margáin was inclined to be creative, or perhaps he was an art aficionado. Regardless of his motives, Margáin replied, “It doesn’t seem like a bad idea.” Under Margáin’s leadership, the Mexican Ministry of Finance and Public Credit accepted Siqueiros’ proposal and launched a program called Pago en Especie (Payment in Kind) in November 1957, when it collected its first income tax payment in art.

  1. Julia LM Bogdanovich, Devising an Artful Tax: An Appraisal of Payment-in-Kind Income Taxes in Mexico and the United Kingdom, 164 U. Pa. L. Rev. 983 (2015).