The Department of State, on September 21, published in the Federal Register a request from the former government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The request recognizes that its cultural patrimony is in jeopardy of pillage and seeks US import restrictions to prevent the loss of priceless artifacts and archaeological material – including architectural elements; ceramics; jewelry; manuscripts; numismatic materials; sculptures made from metal, stone, and terracotta; stamps; tools made from metal and stone; and weapons – and ethnological material – including figurines; metal objects; musical instruments; objects of personal adornment including clothing and jewelry; textiles including carpets, Suzani textiles, and tent coverings; and wood carvings.
The Federal Register notice implicates elements of the federal government's robust authority to restrict the importation of various pieces of cultural property. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) authority found at 19 U.S.C § 2606, sets out part of its mechanism for enforcing import restrictions on the type of cultural property implicated in the notice in the following manner:
- The foreign country must have an agreement with the United States to prohibit importations
- The agreement establishes a designated list of prohibited artwork, antiquities, and cultural property
- Without certification from the foreign government or other evidence that satisfies CBP that exportation of the cultural property was not in violation of the laws of the foreign government, the imported material will be subject to seizure and forfeiture.
A list identifying each of the 25 countries maintaining similar agreements enforceable under 19 U.S.C § 2606 and a general description of the artwork and cultural antiquities subject to restriction is provided at Title 19 of the Code of Federal Regulations (19 C.F.R. § 12.104g(a)). Where an importer cannot meet the conditions set forth in 19 U.S.C. § 2606 and 19 C.F.R. § 12.104(c), designated materials will be denied entry into the United States, and subsequently seized and forfeited to the government.