Given the scale of damage done by commercial diggers to ancient Native American burial, sacred, and other sites which are protected by law, would you also oppose an MOU between the US and another country that restricts the import of Anasazi pots (such as the ones in the Blanding case) into another country? Or would you welcome their help in enforcing our own cultural property laws? After all, it's not illegal to own Anasazi pots in Egypt. Would you support their "right to collect" them, even though they were illegally dug up here?
I wasn't given an answer form Mr Tompa, but I didn't really expect one. It is a rather sticky question for a lawyer to answer. If he had said he would oppose that MOU, he would basically be saying he's ok with someone in another country benefiting from illegal activity here. If he had said he would support such an MOU, then it would be hypocritical of him to be challenging the Chinese/Cyprus MOU.
Regardless of how Mr. Tompa would have answered, I think it's a question that all collectors should ask themselves before ignoring another country's cultural property laws and buying an item of dubious origin.
Do we want someone in another country to benefit from what is illegal activity here? If your answer to that is no, then why is it ok for us to to benefit from illegal activity in another country? That's exactly what happens when we buy items that are dug up in another country, not reported as required by law, and shipped out of that country without required export permits. We get the benefit of what is illegal activity in that other country.
An MOU on cultural property between the US and another country says in effect that the US is agreeing to not let something illegally removed from another country be imported into the US. Would we expect anything different if the tables were turned? I'm sure the US people would be grateful to have an Anasazi pot, that was illegally excavated from a grave, seized and returned by another country if someone attempted to import it.
And what about the advocates of "collectors' rights?" Would they support that same "right to collect" in another country even if what is collected is illegally obtained on US soil? Or does that "right to collect" only apply to Americans?
Many countries have laws regarding cultural property, including the US. We have laws right here in our own country that are very similar to the ones that are considered so restrictive in other countries. The laws here and in other countries are in place because those governments have decided that it's in the best interest of its citizens to protect its cultural heritage. Looting continues unabated all over the world, including right here in the US, destroying the historical record in an effort to find bits and pieces to sell for a profit. When we buy items illegally obtained in another country we are contributing to this destruction.