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WCO discusses ways to assist Iraq in countering terrorism and preventing illicit trafficking of cultural objects

31 mayo 2018

The WCO Secretary General, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, delivered a keynote speech at the TAIEX-PI Workshop on Protecting Iraqi Cultural Heritage and Fighting Terrorism, organized in cooperation with the Federal Government of Iraq and the Office of the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator on 30 and 31 May 2018 in Brussels, Belgium.

The Workshop brought together over 100 experts in law enforcement, from Customs, Police, judiciary authorities, international organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), as well as art market professionals and archaeologists to explore ways to prevent illicit trafficking and destruction of Iraqi cultural heritage.

The Workshop was opened by H.E. Mr. Mazar Khairallah, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Iraq and Head of the Iraqi Delegation, and by Mr. Gilles de Kerchove, EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator. In his opening speech, Deputy Minister Khairallah pointed out that, since 2003, Iraq has been experiencing an unprecedented situation of uncontrolled borders, which has significantly aggravated illicit trafficking of cultural objects, used to generate illicit proceeds and for terrorist financing.

In his keynote address, Dr. Mikuriya provided a summary of the WCO’s activities to prevent illicit trafficking of cultural objects. He outlined four key areas of action, the first being tools for global advocacy, such as the 2015 WCO Punta Cana Resolution on the Role of Customs in the Security Context, and the 2016 WCO Council Resolution on the Prevention of Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Objects.

The second area is the use of technology, with particlar emphasis being placed on the WCO Customs Enforcement Network (CEN) Suite, a global Customs seizures database and a secure communications platform, codenamed ARCHEO, along with the latest developments in the use of geospatial data for intelligence purposes.

Thirdly, cooperation with other stakeholders, and particularly INTERPOL which plays a critical role in this area of enforcement, was stressed within a broader Customs-Police cooperation nexus.

Last but not least, the Secretary General underlined the WCO’s efforts in building the operational capacities of frontline Customs officers through specialized training activities, having already taken place in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in 2017.

He underscored the fact that political awareness and support were critical for Customs administrations to be able to exercise a mandate in this area, and that this support should be provided through the allocation of financial, human and technological resources.

The two-day Workshop focused on an analysis of the current situation in Iraq, law enforcement cooperation and prosecution of crimes relating to the destruction and illicit trafficking of cultural objects. The role of Customs was discussed during the special panel session involving Dr. Mundher Abdulameer Asad Hayer, Director General of Iraqi Customs.

The Workshop concluded with the development of possible follow-up actions to strengthen the capacities of Iraqi governmental agencies in this domain.