After number of clarifications and discussions between State Inspection for Heritage Protection, Ministry of Culture and other involved institutions finally on 29th of June the ratification proposals and laws of joining the "The UNESCO 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property" and "The UNIDROIT 1995 Convention UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects" have been submitted for review in the meeting of State Secretaries of Republic of Latvia. It means, that both conventions have started their way to ratification in the Saeima of the Republic of Latvia and this gives us a hope to join both documents until the end of 2017.
While the ratification process moves slowly, some changes in Criminal law of Latvia, that are closely connected with the main objectives of both Conventions and should be mentioned here, have taken place in last two month.
On June 8, 2017, the Saeima of the Republic of Latvia adopted amendments to the Criminal Law which intend to supplement the legal regulation set in Article 229 of the Criminal Law by establishing the criminal liability for the illegal trafficking of a cultural monument protected by the Republic of Latvia outside of the country or an unlawful expropriation of the cultural monument, if it has caused significant damage to the state or the public interest.
Also the Criminal Law is now supplemented with a new Article 229.1, which establishes the criminal liability for the illegal acquisition, storage, transmission, transfer, expropriation or extradition of state-owned antiquities (dated up to 17th century, included) outside the Republic of Latvia, while pointing out that the person, who voluntarily returned illegally acquired, stored, transferred or transmitted state-owned antiques back to the state, is released from criminal responsibility for these illegal activities. New regulation will come in force on 1st of January 2018.
This regulation is a long-awaited solution for a well know and painful problem of illegal archaeological search in archaeological sites, paces of worship and grave yards and other cultural monuments in the territory of the Republic of Latvia and sell of finds of "gold diggers" online. Tombaroli (Italian for "grave robbers") of Latvia have been especially active during last few years. Their activities have risen not only local, but also international awareness of police and media, thus marking Latvia as one of the top countries of illegal trafficking of cultural goods in Europe. Therefore, drastic measures for the fight with illicit archaeological digs should be implemented without hesitation, even before the basic international regulation of "The UNESCO 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property" and The UNIDROIT 1995 Convention UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects" conventions are accepted. Main issues connected with this illegal search are - use of metal detectors for search of cultural good in protected sites, damaging of those sites in a process of search and dig and loss of provenience and other scientific information of cultural objects found by tombarolo. No matter if the person searches for cultural objects for his own private collection or further distribution the awareness of a moral and practical damage that these activities can actually cause is still very low. Therefore, there is a hope that the new regulation in the Criminal law will rise if not respect for cultural heritage, than at least encourage prevention with an old method of a fear of a punishment, thus preventing cultural monuments of Latvia from further destruction.
Coherent changes in other national laws will be commented in my future posts on Artlaw.online. Stay updated!
Consulting Expert for
State Inspection of Heritage Protection of the Republic of Latvia
Specially for Artlaw.online