I would like to thank you all for coming to witness this important
event, the repatriation of some 3’800 ancient artifacts by United
States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
I am grateful to all those who made today’s restitution possible: ICE
Acting Director Thomas D. Homan and his colleagues; US Custom and
Border Protection Assistant Commissioner Ian Saunders and his
colleagues, in particular for their vigilance and professionalism
without which the smuggled artifacts would not have been discovered,
US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard Donoghue,
whose colleagues, together with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations
Special Agents conducted critically important investigations leading
to what we are witnessing today. I would also like to thank DAS Andrew Peek and his colleagues from the State Department who are here for their support.
Such efforts are to be noted. Not only do they enforce the law, they
serve a sense of historic justice, and they help in the fight against
criminal and terrorist networks. They serve a sense of historic
justice because they are returning items to their natural homes, and
to a nation that is very attached to its cultural heritage. They help
in the fight against criminal and terrorist networks because they
prevent the latter from taking advantage of these precious items to
The attachment of Iraqis to the witnesses of their rich history is not
new. Since the 1920s, Iraq has adopted strict laws to protect its
cultural heritage, with a blanket ban on the possession, sale,
exporting and trafficking of such items. Iraq will seek to apply all
existing legislation to repatriate any illegally exported
archeological pieces, but the legal protections in place still include
time bars and cut-off dates that prevent us from recovering our
cultural heritage. This regime should be improved and expand:
historical artifacts are timeless; the legal regime protecting them
should therefore not be time-bound.
In closing, I would like to reiterate my thanks to the US authorities
present here for their critical role, and you all for being here to
witness this event.