On Friday (4 March), Minister of State Böhmer returned a particularly valuable artefact from Ancient Egypt to Egyptian Ambassador Badr Abdelbatty. It is a practical everyday utensil, a ceramic jar with pierced lug handles, so called because of the holes in the handles, designed to allow a cord to be threaded through for carrying.
The jar is the fourth and last item from a spectacular haul confiscated by German customs officials at the German-Swiss border in 2009. All four objects were hidden under a load of carpets in a lorry and were on their way to a buyer in Belgium. Böhmer was able to return three of the items – a miniature obelisk, part of a shrine and a niche stele – to the then Egyptian Ambassador in April 2014.
Illegal trade in antiquities is a global problem
At the handover ceremony at the Federal Foreign Office, Böhmer said:
We must not slacken our efforts to highlight and combat the global problem of illegal trading in antiquities. This makes it all the more important that Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media Grütters has presented a draft for the new law on the protection of cultural property. It is vital that the draft be discussed quickly. I support this initiative.
The international community, and particularly Germany, had already introduced measures to combat this illegal trade, the Minister of State said. As Chair of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, Böhmer last year took the initiative for the so-called Bonn Declaration, which calls on all states to ensure more effective protection for the world cultural heritage. To that same end, Germany and Iraq co-sponsored a resolution in the UN General Assembly, which was adopted unanimously in May 2015. It brands the deliberate destruction of cultural objects as a war crime which can be prosecuted worldwide.
Within the framework of UNESCO’s United for Heritage campaign, Böhmer also supports Italy’s current initiative towards the establishment of a national task force of experts for the protection of cultural heritage.