UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - UN member-states on Thursday declared that the destruction by jihadists of Iraqi cultural sites may amount to war crimes and agreed to take steps to curb the trade of stolen ancient artifacts.
The General Assembly adopted a resolution on saving Iraq's cultural sites as international concern mounted over the fate of the Syrian archeological site of Palmyra captured by Islamic State fighters a week ago.
Videos of IS combatants destroying artifacts at the Mosul museum and smashing sledgehammers into ancient walls at Hatra and Nimrud sparked an outcry and calls to prevent the "cultural cleansing" of the Middle East.
The non-binding resolution drafted by Germany and Iraq condemns the "barbaric" destruction and looting of heritage sites and calls for the prosecution of perpetrators of cultural vandalism.
The measure urges states to ensure that art collectors, auction houses, art dealers and museum professionals provide documentation to verify the provenance of artifacts.
"The destruction of Iraqi cultural heritage, the cradle of civilization, is no less barbaric and serious than killing Iraqis," Iraq's Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim told the 193-nation assembly.
German state minister Maria Boehmer said the destruction of world heritage sites "is a war crime and an attack on humanity as a whole." "Every person needs to know that the purchase of property from Iraq is punishable but also that it supports and finances terrorist activities," said Boehmer.
The resolution calls for stepped-up efforts to protect and track items of cultural heritage and warns that attacks on historic monuments may amount to war crimes.
During a news conference following the adoption, Alhakim lamented that the Security Council did not adopt such a resolution, which would then have been binding and enforceable.
The council in February adopted a resolution that seeks to cut off financing to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group from the smuggling of antiquities.
That measure slapped a ban on the sale of antiquities from Syria, while a 10-year-old ban on those from Iraq remains in force.