Convention on the Protection of the Archeological, Historical, and Artistic Heritage of the American Nations
The purpose of this Convention is to identify, register, protect, and
safeguard the property making up the cultural heritage of the American
nations in order: (a) to prevent illegal exportation or importation of
cultural property, and (b) to promote cooperation among the American
states for mutual awareness and appreciation of their cultural property.
The cultural property referred to in the preceding article is that
included in the following categories:
a. Monuments, objects, fragments of ruined buildings, and
archeological materials belonging to American cultures existing
prior to contact with European culture, as well as remains of
human beings, fauna, and flora related to such cultures;
b. Monuments, buildings, objects of an artistic, utilitarian, and
ethnological nature, whole or in fragments, from the colonial
era and the Nineteenth Century;
c. Libraries and archives; incunabula and manuscripts; books and
other publications, iconographies, maps and documents published
d. All objects originating after 1850 that the States Parties have
recorded as cultural property, provided that they have given
notice of such registration to the other parties to the treaty;
e. All cultural property that any of the States Parties
specifically declares to be included within the scope of this
The cultural property included in the above article shall receive maximum
protection at the international level, and its exportation and
importation shall be considered unlawful, except when the state owning it
authorizes its exportation for purposes of promoting knowledge of
Any disagreement between the parties to this Convention, regarding
application of the definitions and categories of Article 2 to specific
property shall be resolved definitively by the Inter-American Council for
Education , Science, and Culture (CIECC), following an opinion by the
Inter-American Committee on Culture.
The cultural heritage of each state consists of property mentioned in
Article 2, found or created in its territory and legally acquired items
of foreign origin.
The control exercised by each state over its cultural heritage and any
actions that may be taken to reclaim items belonging to it are
Regulations on ownership of cultural property and its transfer within the
territory of each state shall be governed by domestic legislation. With a
view to preventing unlawful trade in such goods, the following measures
shall be encouraged:
a. Registration of collections and of transfer of cultural property
subject to protection;
b. Registration of transactions carried out by establishments
engaged in the sale and purchase of such property;
c. Prohibition of imports of cultural property from other states
without appropriate certificate and authorization.
Each state is responsible for identifying, registering, protecting,
preserving, and safeguarding its cultural heritage; in fulfillment of
these functions each state undertakes to encourage:
a. Preparation, in accordance with its respective constitutional
standards, of rules and legislative provisions required for
effective protection of this heritage from destruction resulting
from neglect or inadequate preservation work;
b. Establishment of technical organs entrusted specifically with
the protection and safeguarding of cultural property;
c. Establishment and maintenance of an inventory and record of
cultural property, to make it possible to identify and locate
d. The delimitation and protection of archeological sites and
places of historical and artistic interest;
e. Exploration, excavation, investigation, and preservation of
archeological sites and objects by scientific institutions, in
collaboration with the national agency in charge of the
Each State Party shall prevent by all available means any unlawful
excavation in its territory or any removal of cultural property
Each State Party to this Convention undertakes to take whatever measures
it may consider effective to prevent and curb the unlawful exportation,
importation, and removal of cultural property, as well as those necessary
for the return of such property to the state to which it belongs in the
event of its removal.
When the government of a State Party becomes aware of the unlawful
exportation of an item of cultural property, it may address the
government of the state to which the property has been removed,
requesting that it take measures for its recovery and return. This shall
be done through diplomatic channels. The request shall be accompanied by
evidence of the unlawful removal of the property in question, in
accordance with the laws of the requesting state. This evidence shall be
considered by the state petitioned.
The state petitioned shall employ all available lawful means in order to
locate, recover, and return the cultural property claimed and that may
have been removed after this Convention has come into effect.
If the laws of the state petitioned require judicial action for recovery
of foreign cultural property unlawfully imported or removed, such
judicial action shall be instituted in the appropriate courts by the
competent authority of that state.
The petitioning state also has the right to institute appropriate
judicial action in the state petitioned in order to bring about recovery
of the property that has been removed and application of the pertinent
penalties against those responsible.
As soon as the state petitioned is in a position to do so, it shall
return to the petitioning state the cultural property that has been
remove. The cost of returning such property shall be covered by the state
petitioned without prejudice to the measures or action it should take in
order to be reimbursed for such expenses.
No tax or government fee shall be charged for cultural property returned
in accordance with the provisions of Article 12.
Those responsible for crimes against the integrity of cultural property
or for crimes resulting from the illegal exportation or importation
thereof are subject to extradition Treaties , when appropriate.
The States Parties bind themselves to cooperate in the mutual knowledge
and appreciation of their cultural values by taking the following
a. Facilitating the circulation, exchange, and exhibition, for
educational, scientific, and cultural purposes, of cultural
property from other nations and of their own cultural property
abroad, when authorized by the pertinent governmental agencies;
b. Promoting the exchange of information on cultural property and
on archeological excavations and discoveries.
Articles on loan to museums, exhibitions, or scientific institutions that
are outside the state to whose cultural heritage they belong shall not be
subject to seizure as a result of public or private lawsuits.
For purposes of compliance with the objectives of this Convention, the
General Secretariat of the OAS is charged with:
a. Ensuring the enforcement and effectiveness of this Convention;
b. Promoting the adoption of collective measures directed toward
the protection and preservation of cultural property belonging
to the American states;
c. Establishing an Inter-American Registry of cultural property,
both movable and immovable, that is of special value;
d. Promoting coordination of national legislation on this subject;
e. Granting and arranging any technical cooperation the States
Parties may request;
f. Disseminating information on the cultural property of the States
Parties and the objectives of this Convention;
g. Promoting the circulation, exchange, and exhibition of cultural
property among the States Parties.
None of the provisions of this Convention shall impede the States Parties
from entering into bilateral or multilateral agreements relative to their
cultural heritage, nor shall they limit the application of any agreements
to the same end as may be in force.
The present Convention is open to signature by the member states of the
OAS and to adherence by any state.
The present Convention shall be ratified by the signatory states in
accordance with their respective constitutional procedures.
The original instruments, whose Spanish, French, English, and Portuguese
texts are equally authentic, shall be deposited with the General
Secretariat of the OAS, which shall send certified copies to the
signatory states for purpose of ratification. The instruments of
ratification shall be deposited with the General Secretariat of the OAS,
which shall notify the signatory governments of the deposit.
This Convention shall enter into force among the states ratifying it in
the order of deposit of their instruments of ratification.
The present Convention shall be in force indefinitely; however, any of
the States Parties may denounce it. The denunciation shall be
communicated to the General Secretariat of the Organization of American
States, which shall inform the other States Parties thereof. One year
from the date of denunciation, the Convention shall cease to be in force
for the state that denounced it and remain in force for the other States
2. This Convention shall be known as the Convention of San Salvador.
References and Further Reading
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