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Iraq Cultural Property Law, 2002
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Under the terms of Iraq Law Number 55 and preceding legislation [Antiquities Law No. 59, enacted in 1936, as amended by amendments 120 (1974) and Amendment 164 (1975)]:

all Antiquities...
(defined as "movable and immovable
                              property which has been built, made,
                              carved, produced, written or painted by
                              man, those age of which is not less than
                              200 years, as well as human and animal
                              skeletons and plant remains")

...and all Heritage Material...
(defined as "movable and immovable
                              property, less than 200 years of age,
                              possessing a historical, national,
                              religious and artistic value")

...located in the territory of Iraq, unless registered as private property with the State Board of Antiquities, shall be considered the property of the State.

Discovering, taking, purchasing or receiving as a gift any antiquity or heritage material that originated in Iraq, without promptly notifying and registering the object with the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, is a violation of Law Number 55.

Under this law, no one is allowed by excavate, dig for, discover or take any antiquity or heritage material without a written permit from the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage.

Likewise, no one is allowed to remove or transport any antiquity or heritage material from the territory of Iraq without a permit from the same body.

The penalties for violating Law Number 55 may include incarceration of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of 100,000 Iraqi Dinars. Illegal excavation (looting) may result in imprisonment for a period of up to 15 years and a fine of two times the value of the damages sustained. And trafficking in antiquities is punishable with a term of imprisonment for a period not to exceed 10 years and a fine of up to 1,000,000 Iraqi Dinars.

U.S. service personnel or contactors are subject to Law Number 55 while on Iraqi soil. This law may also be invoked by a federal prosecutor in the United States in support of a charge under the National Stolen Property Act* in the event that antiquities or heritage material or Iraqi origin are transported to the U.S.** Conviction under the National Stolen Property Act may subject those who possess or transport or transfer ownership or interest in the artifact in the United States to various penalities including fine and imprisonment, and may subject the artifact in question to criminal or civil forfeiture.


* The National Stolen Property Act Title 18 U.S.C. §2315, makes it a crime to "receive , possess, . . . sell, or dispose of any goods, wares, or merchandise . . . of the value of $ 5,000 or more, . . . which have crossed a State or United States boundary after being stolen, unlawfully converted, or taken, knowing the same to have been stolen, unlawfully converted, or taken . . ."

** Under two federal court precedents — United States of America versus McClain 545 F.2d 988 (5 th Cir. 1977); 593 F.2d (5th Cir. 1979) and United State of America versus Frederick Schultz 333 F.2d 393 (2nd Circuit 2003), affirmed by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals — a federal prosecutor in the United States may invoke, and a federal court judge in the United States may apply a foreign government's antiquties law, such as Iraq's Law Number 55 for the purposes of establishing the rightful ownership of a smuggled smuggled artifact and seize the artifact under an order of forfeiture for eventual return to the source country.



    Click here to read the text of
    the 1936 Iraq Antiquities Law,
    as amended.