Friday, February 05, 2010

Antiquities law: Egypt tightens penalties

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

Over the past year various committees in the State Council and the People's Assembly have been reviewing the new antiquities law, which has finally been approved and will be endorsed on Monday. Parliament also rejected every suggestion made by some MPs to allow licensed antiquities trafficking in Egypt.

"It really is a great success. I am very happy that this law has finally seen the light of day," Culture Minister Farouk Hosni told Al-Ahram Weekly. He added that the last session of parliament had approved the law with speed and efficiency, and stressed that it was an important step for Egyptian heritage since it would provide better protection than the previous Law 117/1983 since the penalties it imposed for trafficking were too lenient. "We need stiffer penalties to stop further trafficking," Hosni said.

The new law prohibits all antiquities trading and cancels the 10 per cent of unearthed goods previously granted to the foreign excavation missions who discovered them. "In fact, when I took over Egypt's cultural portfolio in 1987 I made a decision to call a halt to this practice, but my decision had to be ratified since anyone could file a lawsuit on the grounds that it was permitted by the old law. Now the division of any discovered objects is prohibited by the new law, and no one can ever divide newly- discovered artefacts with Egypt," Hosni said.

Middle East Online (Riad Abu Awad)

Parliament amended Egypt's antiquities law on Monday to bring in stiffer punishments for the theft and smuggling of relics while granting patent rights to the country's antiquities council.

The amendment requires Egyptians who have antiquities to report their possessions to the Supreme Council of Antiquities, headed by Zahi Hawass, in six months. The sale of antiquities is still banned.

"Parliament agreed on article eight that forbids trade in antiquities but allows possession of antiquities with some individuals, on condition that they cannot use them to benefit others, or to damage and neglect them," Hawass said.

These relics, he said, can in future only be given as a gift with the council's authorisation. They may also be passed on as part of an inheritance.

The antiquities legal counsel, Ashraf el-Ishmawi, who helped in the drafting of the amendments, clarified that the law precluded antiques and heirlooms.

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