Tuesday, July 11, 2017

My Personal Comment on the Proposed Libyan MOU

Here is my personal comment on the proposed Libyan MOU:

Please accept these personal comments. I have also commented on behalf of a number of organizations.

1. CPAC should view this request with skepticism. Few details have emerged that support Libya's MOU request. Moreover, this request has been rushed, with a short comment period smack in the middle of a long holiday week. This action, which can only limit the number of comments CPAC receives, in itself suggests that this request should be viewed with caution-- even if the country itself wasn't a mess as it has been since its revolution of 2011.

2. The country has 3 governments, and two antiquities authorities jockeying for position. It's not even clear which of these entities supports this request. In any case, whatever "government" Libya has, powerful militias are in the background that can break these "governments" pretty much at will.

3. There are no guarantees that any artifacts Customs sends to Libya under any MOU will be protected, much less studied and displayed. None of Libya's museums are open and what staff remains have to make do under very trying circumstances.

4. Frankly, instead of yet another round of import restrictions, the State Department, along with other international organizations, should instead focus on helping Libyan community groups protect Libya's 5 UNESCO World Heritage sites from the deprivations of Islamic fundamentalists. Ultimately, Palmyra and Nimrud suffered severe damage because local communities didn't care enough to protect them from ISIS. Let's help those locals who care about these sites protect them.

5. I do not believe that Libya and the proponents of import restrictions have made out a case for either "regular" or "emergency restrictions." Nonetheless, if CPAC feels it cannot resist bureaucratic pressure to "do something," Libya's request should be treated as an "emergency one" and restrictions limited to site specific material from Libya's endangered World Heritage Sites: (1) Kyrene; (2) Leptis Magna; (3) Sabratha; (4) Tadrat Acacus; and (5) Ghademes. (See Libya's five World Heritage sites put on List of World Heritage in Danger, (UNESCO) (July 14, 2017), available at [URL REMOVED]

6. Under no circumstances should there be restrictions placed on historical coins except those identifiable as stolen from Libyan public and private collections. Here, IAPN, PNG and ACCG have noted what hoard evidence that is available shows that "Libyan" coins are typically found outside of the confines of modern day "Libya," which would make any restrictions placed upon them contrary to governing law. Ancient Coin Collectors Guild v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 801 F. Supp. 2d 383, 407 n. 25 (D. Md. 2011) ("Congress only authorized the imposition of import restrictions on objects that were 'first discovered within, and [are] subject to the export control by the State Party.").

Thank you for your consideration of these comments.


Peter Tompa

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