International legal safeguards and mechanisms for the protection and recovery of Arab cultural property that are illicitly trafficked

Dr. Salaheddine Boudjellal
Associate Professor of Public International Law – Faculty of Law and Political Science – University of Setif  – Algeria


The illicit trade in cultural property is one of the largest and most challenging criminal activities we face today. Carried out on an international scale, and involving links with the terrorist organizations (like the situation in Iraq and Syria). In fact, the Arab region has for decades been, and is still, subject to systematic looting of its cultural heritage and property. However, dealing with this looting and illicit trafficking in such property has not been at the top of the priorities and concerns of Arab politicians and legislators. Despite the effort of many researchers, academic studies did not significantly highlight the seriousness of this criminal act.
This study attempts to explore the illicit trade in cultural property in Arab countries by examining various relevant international legal texts to be adopted in the protection of cultural treasures. It also highlights the various international legal mechanisms that can be used to recover such cultural property. In addition to relying on the empirical approach, this study is based on a descriptive and an analytical approach.
The study concludes that there is a rich international legal framework in this area that can be used to protect such property from looting and illicit trafficking, either by adopting existing preventive mechanisms or by adopting criminal prosecution and punitive legislative measures. At the level of restitution mechanisms for looted Arab cultural property, we have found that there are many trial and non-judicial mechanisms that, if exploited and invested, can be used to recover such property.
Key words: Cultural property, Illicit trade, Arab countries, Legal protection, Restitution of cultural property.

Read Full PDF Text (Arabic)