Abu Dhabi: A law to protect, uncover, manage and promote cultural heritage in the emirate of Abu Dhabi was issued yesterday (Wednesday) by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in his capacity as Ruler of Abu Dhabi.

The law stipulates that cultural heritage materials are considered public property of the emirate if it has been proven that it belongs to Abu Dhabi. In all cases, any cultural heritage discovered underwater will also belong to the emirate.

The law states that excavations for artefacts are restricted to the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (ADTCA). The authority can issue permits for exploration missions under the authority’s supervision. All artefacts discovered during excavations are the property of the emirate and they will have to be handed over to the authority.

Crimes related to cultural heritage can result in a minimum prison sentence of two years, and fines ranging from Dh500,000 to Dh10 million, and artefacts found at the scene of the crime will be confiscated.

The law regulates the specialisations of ADTCA and the extent of its supervision over cultural heritage in Abu Dhabi. It will also be responsible for increasing national awareness on the importance of cultural heritage, and promoting it by bolstering the emirate’s cultural identity and preserving traditions that distinguish the emirate’s society.

The authority will take all necessary measures to safeguard and protect the emirate’s cultural heritage and will be responsible for issuing permits for setting up museums and supervising them.

The law specifies procedures for waiving ownership rights on artefacts, their exportation, lending them or temporarily moving them out of the emirate. It also specifies procedures that must be followed if artefacts are unintentionally discovered and the authorities that must be informed during time periods specified in the law.

The law also covers cases of preserving and seizing cultural heritage objects that were being transported, as well as procedures to be followed in such cases where these objects that were being transported were lost or stolen.

The law also updates two of the authority’s registers. The two registers will be named the heritage objects register and the intangible heritage register, and will contain all information and data related to heritage objects and intangible heritage.

It will coordinate with educational bodies to include intangible heritage in school curricula.