Sunday, 28 November 2021 09:16 GMT

Switzerland returns looted relics to Syrian authorities


(MENAFN- Swissinfo) A funereal bas-relief with a female portrait from Syria, 2nd century BC. © MAH, photo : F. Bevilacqua

Three rare artefacts that were looted from Syria's ancient city of Palmyra and stored at the Geneva free port have been returned to Syrian authorities.

This content was published on November 24, 2021 - 09:45 November 24, 2021 - 09:45 Keystone-SDA/MAH/sb

The confiscated objects, from the second and third centuries, include a priest's head and two funereal bas-reliefs featuring male and female portraits. They were handed over to officials at the Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations Office in Geneva last Thursday, it was reported on Tuesday.

This follows a request for restitution made by the Syrian authorities in September 2020.


A priest's head, Syria, 2nd-3rd century BC. © MAH, photo : B. Jacot-Descombes

The items from Syria, together with others from Yemen and Libya, had been confiscated by the Office of the Attorney General of Geneva in 2016. Most of the items had reportedly reached SwitzerlandExternal link via Qatar and were taken by looters.

The artefacts were stored at the Geneva free port by private individuals after arriving illegally in Switzerland between 2009-2010. They had been discovered during a routine inspection by Swiss customs in 2013. It is not clear when they were seized.

The pieces were then handed over to the Museum of Art and History in Geneva, where they were displayed temporarily in 2017 to raise awareness about the issue of looted cultural heritage. They were then stored in the museum ahead of their restitution.

The Syrian pieces came from Palmyra, a UNESCO world heritage site devastated by Islamic State jihadists who seized it in May 2015. The Islamists sent shock waves around the world as they systematically destroyed the central city's monuments.

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