International treaty seeking to criminalise cultural property offences

This treaty [4] published by the Council of Europe on 19 May 2017, invites States  to criminalise the unlawful excavation, importation, exportation, acquisition and placing on the market of illicit cultural property.   At the time of writing the treaty has 6 signatories; Armenia, Cyprus, Greence, Portugal, San Marino and Mexico.   If 5 of these signatories go on to ratify it, the treaty would come into force

Key points 

  • Knowledge of the unlawful provenance of the cultural property is required for prosecution for the main offences.
  • Anyone (be they a professional, experienced collector or ordinary citizen) could be prosectued.
  • The”placing on the market” offence covers all channels of supply and public offering, including flea markets, antique shops, auction houses, online markets and social networks.
  • As part of the “placing on the market” offence, States are invited to consider criminalising those who should have known of the unlawful provenance of the item but failed to exercise an appropraite level of due care and attention.
  • When committed intentionally, the falsification of documents and destruction and damage of cultural property are also criminalised.


[4] Council of Europe Convention on Offences relating to Cultural Property, 19 May 2017. No. 221,