Showing results 13 - 24 of 1,547 for the category: Similar cases.

March 24, 2014

UK urged to sign UNESCO treaty on underwater heritage

Posted at 2:01 pm in Similar cases

Often we can learn far more from underwater heritage than from excavations on land, because many items can be better preserved by the immersion in water. On the other hand though, their location away from public view means that they are ideal targets for looters & organised excavations by commercial interests (I’m looking at you Odyssey Marine). Particularly for ship wrecks in international waters, the laws are less clear cut, over who owns the treasure discovered on board them.

I’m particularly interested in this subject, because there are at least two shipwrecks off Greece, the Mentor & the Cambria, that play a part n the story of the Parthenon Marbles.

Now, archaeologists are urging the UK to ratify the 2001 Unesco convention on the protection of the underwater cultural heritage. I think that this is a great aim, although seeing Britains failure so far to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, I’m not holding my breath.

The wreck of the SS Gairsoppa off Galway

The wreck of the SS Gairsoppa off Galway

From:
Guardian

Britain urged to sign up to shipwreck treaty to protect underwater heritage
Dalya Alberge
The Observer, Sunday 23 March 2014

Britain’s rich maritime legacy is under threat from commercial treasure hunters who are accused by experts of plundering and destroying the nation’s underwater heritage.

A group of leading archaeologists and historians warn that unless the government intervenes to protect scores of historically significant wrecks lying beyond the country’s territorial waters, sites including the graves of those lost at sea could be exploited and lost for good.
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March 22, 2014

Lessons learned from Agudas Chasidei Chabad v. Russian Federation, et al.

Posted at 7:10 pm in Similar cases

I have mentioned previously about the dispute between the Chabad Jews & Russia, over the requests for the return of two disputed collections of books & manuscripts.

A few days ago, I came across this interesting review of the current state of the case (which still remains a long way from being resolved. Now, although I don’t believe the courts of the District of Columbia were being particularly sensible in some of their judgements on the case, there are many things that can be learned from it.

In many cases involving cultural property restitution claims, there is a split between those who feel that the case should be settled by diplomatic means, and those who believe it should be settled through legal action. The reality however isn’t so simple. In many cases, the ideal option would be to use informal negotiations to solve the issue, but what happens when this doesn’t work? If the party currently holding the disputed artefacts feels that they are in a comfortable situation & feels their ownership is secure, what reason is there for them to want to enter into some sort of negotiations where the aim of the other party is clearly to take back the artefact. One might suggest, that moral obligations or overwhelming public opinion ought to be enough of a lever, to start negotiations, but the number of well founded restitution cases that continue to be stonewalled by large institutions around the world shows that this is often not the case.

It is clear that sometimes, more is needed, at least as a catalyst to start serious negotiations. Italy was pressing for years for the return of such items as the Euphonios Krater from the Metropolitan Museum, but was only successful once the threat of legal action made the Met enter into serious negotiations. Legal actions is far from the only way of doing this however. Other countries such as Iran and Egypt have experienced success, following threats to withdraw cooperation with the countries or institutions in question.

What all this is leading to, is that whether or not we feel it is the right approach to take, legal action is sometimes going to be taken as a means to resolve restitution cases. Legal action can take many possible forms, and if you got five sets of lawyers in the room, each would have different ideas about how to approach a specific case. What this case goes to show though, is that depending on the circumstances, even if one wins the legal case, the means of enforcing such wins in international disputes are limited. In the case discussed in this article, the Chabad Jews won the case, the court has tried (albeit in a somewhat presumptuous / naive way) to enforce the ruling (and risked creating a major diplomatic incident in the process), but has so far been unsuccessful in progressing things beyond the status quo at the outset of the case. Russia still holds onto the manuscripts & still appears completely dis-inclined to consider returning them.

What is needed in such cases is an international forum of some sort (if it is legal action we are talking about, this would have to be a court, but there are other options). There are already the precedent of international courts, such as the International Criminal Court in the Hague, but the reality is that the handle only very specific cases & cultural property falls far outside their remit.

Within the Europe, there are two additional options (that have as yet been unexplored by Greece), the European Court of Human Rights & the European Court of Justice. Organisations such as UNESCO form another possible entity that could oversee the Adjudication of cultural property claims, and it is through their mandated mediation process that Greece hopes to solve the dispute over the Parthenon Sculptures. The key issue here however is that there is no obligations for countries to enter into the mediation process. At present, to the best of my knowledge, Greece has had no luck in getting Britain to actually enter into the mediation with them.

At least among advocates of the return of the Parthenon Sculptures, legal action continues to be a divisive issue, although I believe that to an extent, this is because people worry about the risks it might also carry & sometimes because they do not fully understand the nature of the tools available to them. Where cases can not be moved forward by diplomatic means though, other options are needed, and this is one of the clearest paths to take in such instances.

One of the manuscripts requested by the Chabad Jews

One of the manuscripts requested by the Chabad Jews

From:
American Society of International Law

Reviewing the Agudas Chasidei Chabad v. Russian Federation, et al. Dispute
March 19, 2014 Volume: 18 Issue: 8

Introduction
Nationalization of looted property continues to trigger international legal disputes. It has been almost nine decades since the Lubavitch Chasidim or Chabad Chasidim (Chabad), a Jewish religious entity, began the quest to reconstitute its collection of sacred books and manuscripts currently held by the Russian Federation.[1] While Chabad is now a New York incorporated entity, it has strong roots in the Russian Empire from which it emerged.[2] This litigation highlights the challenges in resolving historical disputes against a foreign sovereign in national courts.

The property contested in Agudas Chasidei Chabad v. Russian Federation, et al. consists of a library with more than 12,000 works dating back to the 1770s (Library) and an archive of over 25,000 pages of Chabad Rebbes’ documents (Archive).[3] Collectively, they are referred to as “the Collection” in court proceedings.[4] Chabad considers the Collection to be sacred and the Archives to be an “essential legacy . . . something concrete that . . . incorporates in itself both the sanctity, the very presence, the very personality of the Rebbe himself.”[5]
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March 4, 2014

Would Britain stop modern day Monuments Men?

Posted at 2:03 pm in Similar cases

The film Monuments Men has already featured a number of times on this site, even prior to the comments by the lead actor about the return of the Parthenon Marbles.

This article looks at whether such an initiative would succeed today. I have to say, that I don’t entirely agree with their conclusions though, as the actions depicted within the film took place largely outside of any existing legal frameworks. This said though, I still struggle to see why Britain refuses to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention on the protection of artefacts during armed conflicts.

Damaged Shiite Mosque outside Samarra, Iraq, 2006

Damaged Shiite Mosque outside Samarra, Iraq, 2006

From:
The Conversation

28 February 2014, 6.04am GMT
British government thwarts modern day Monuments Men

We study the past to understand the present and to help shape the future. A society without a memory is a dysfunctional society. And much of a society’s memory is encapsulated within its cultural property – the physical remains of the past – its books, archives, art, historic buildings and landscapes, and its archaeological sites. Lose that cultural property and you are very close to losing collective memory.

George Clooney stars in and directed The Monuments Men. Critical consensus agrees that it is not a very good film, but it does raise a very important and contemporary topic – the protection of cultural property during conflict.
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February 20, 2014

China’s buy back of looted artefacts continues

Posted at 1:51 pm in Similar cases

While many countries have been arguing for years about disputed artefacts abroad (with little success), China has for some time now taken an additional parallel approach to this. Buying back objects, when the come up for auction is of course something that you can only do if you have the cash reserves to carry out the plan – and the existing owner is planning on selling. The fact that there are so many Chinese artefacts abroad, means that there will always be one that is owned by someone who is planning on selling it (normally at auction).

The whole practise of buying back these works is looked down on by many as it goes a step towards legitimising the original acquisitions. It is something that only a few countries can afford to do – and indeed, in the case of China, it has mainly been undertaken by individuals doing it with the intention of bringing the works back, rather than a concerted effort by the state.

Bronzes looted from the Summer Palace during the Opium Wars

Bronzes looted from the Summer Palace during the Opium Wars

From:
South China Morning Post

Recovery of China’s lost marbles stirs debate
Recovery of relics is increasingly a marker of Beijing’s changing geopolitical clout
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 February, 2014, 6:39pm

China has long sought to recover treasures it says were looted by foreigners, but a tycoon’s US$1.6 million deal for the return of seven white marble columns from Norway is raising unusual debate on the issue.

Critics have openly challenged the motives of real estate developer Huang Nubo, whose donation to the KODE Art Museums of Bergen paved the way for the return of the Old Summer Palace relics, and some argued they should not be “bought back”.
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December 6, 2013

Once wars are over, shouldn’t the spoils of war be returned as an act of reconciliation?

Posted at 2:07 pm in Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

Following David Cameron’s questioning by the Chinese over disputed artefacts in the British Museum, this article looks at some of the other similar cases & how perhaps the ownership of cultural artefacts needs rethinking.

David Cameron signed up on Weibo - a Chinese Social Network

David Cameron signed up on Weibo – a Chinese Social Network

From:
Khaleej Times (UAE)

Render unto Caesar…
6 December 2013

BRITISH PRIME Minister David Cameron’s visit to China has evoked at least one reaction from the Middle Kingdom that is going to find resonance in many parts of the world. It is the demand that Britain return the Chinese national treasures looted by the British Army during the sacking of the Forbidden City following a peasant uprising in the 19th century.

The British Museum alone has 23,000 such trophies lifted after an eight-nation Western troop brutally put down the uprising. Thousands more plundered works of art lie scattered around the world. The British Museum has refused to hand over its ill-gotten gains, claiming they have now become part of world heritage and can be enjoyed by more people if they are in a centrally located place like London. If location is the criterion, then the UAE can lay one of the best claims to housing the looted collection.
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USA returns Mayan frieze to Guatemala, so why shouldn’t Britain return Parthenon Frieze to Greece?

Posted at 9:17 am in Similar cases

The Guatemalan authorities announced that an agreement had been reached with the USA for the return of a carved stone Mayan frieze. This return adds to over 10,500 disputed artefacts already returned to Guatemala from around the world in recent years.

Whilst I always assert that every cultural property dispute is different & should be dealt with on its own terms, it is still easy for anyone to see the parallels between one carved stone frieze & the Frieze from the Parthenon (part of which is currently in the British Museum.

Limestone Mayan Frieze

Mayan frieze returned to Guatemala by USA

From:
iEfimerida (google translated)

The impressive frieze of Maya returned to Guatemala
03/12/2013 14:06

The Guatemalan government officially announced the return of the U.S. giant Mayan frieze dating from the classical period, between 250 and 900 BC. The restoration and maintenance procedures were completed and returned the frieze in the country.

This is a work of art from limestone, which is a height of about 50 cm and was located in the northern province of Peten, a region considered the birthplace of the ancient Mayan civilization.

The last 10 years, Guatemala has recovered more than 10,500 antiquities that were in other countries, such as USA, Germany, Britain and France, after the La Corona and other archaeological sites in the Petén looted in the 19th century.

December 5, 2013

Cameron harangued online via Weibo by Chinese angry about looted artefacts in British Museum

Posted at 7:19 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

Another week, another trade mission abroad by David Cameron. This one has ended similarly to his trip to India, where all the publicity rapidly became focused on demands for the return of the Koh-i-noor diamond.

In this case, it was the various items that were taken from the Summer Palace in Beijing, after it was ransacked by British troops. Large numbers of these aretfacts ended up in the British Museum, although many more of them are scattered across various private collections around the world. In recent years, there has been more than one instance where once has come up for auction.

What adds interest to this story (from the point of view of this website) is the fact that the raiding of the Summer Palace took place under the command of the Eighth Earl of Elgin – the son of the Seventh Earl, who was the Lord Elgin who removed the sculptures from the Parthenon. As a result, these actions of the Eighth Earl are detested just as much by the Chinese, as those of the Seventh Earl are reviled by the Greeks.

Battles between Chinese forces and Allied armies during the suppression of the Boxer rebellion.

Battles between Chinese forces and Allied armies during the suppression of the Boxer rebellion.

From:
The Daily Star (Bangladesh)

Published: Thursday, December 5, 2013
Return our looted treasures
Chinese think-tank tells visiting UK PM
Afp, Beijing

British Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday faced demands for the return of priceless artefacts looted from Beijing in the 19th century, on the last day of his visit to China.
Cameron travelled to the southwestern city of Chengdu on the third day of what embassy officials said was the largest ever British trade mission to the country.
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November 4, 2013

Dallas Museum of Art returns disputed artefacts to Italy in exchange for loan of other items

Posted at 7:43 pm in Similar cases

Back in 2002, Greek Culture Minister, Evangelos Venizelos made a proposal for how the return of the Parthenon Sculptures could be facilitated.

There were a number of aspects to Venizelos’s proposal, one of them being that Greece would offer various other artefacts to the British Museum on loan, in exchange for the return of the Marbles. This would give the museum new artefacts to display, drawing in more visitors, while Greece would get the Parthenon Sculptures back. A win-win situation.

A number of exchanges similar to what was proposed have now taken place in the years since then, Mainly between institutions in the US & Italy.

Past exchanges with Italy involved the threat of legal action, but this one took place entirely voluntarily.

Treasures from the Spina necropolis

Treasures from the Spina necropolis

From:
NBC Dallas Fort Worth

Italy Loans Dallas Museum of Art Installation After Looted Antiquities Returned
Thursday, Oct 31, 2013 | Updated 12:28 PM CDT

The Dallas Museum of Art has agreed to return six antiquities that were looted illegally from Italy. In return, Italy is loaning the DMA an art installation.

In exchange, Italy is loaning the Dallas museum treasures from the Spina necropolis (pictured, above) housed at the Ferrara archaeological museum.
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The British desire to conquer the world & bring bits of it home with them

Posted at 7:25 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

The British Empire, which once covered a large part of the world, was long since dwindled away. The remnants of this empire & immense power are still self evident however if you visit institutions such as the British Museum, which still house many treasures that are the spoils from past imperial conquests. The story here focuses on some pieces from Ireland, but many other countries have similar tales to tell.

Egyptian mummy at the British Museum

Egyptian mummy at the British Museum

From:
Irish Examiner

Stolen moments in British Museum
Monday, November 04, 2013
THE British are peculiar. Their desire to conquer the world has been matched only by their obsession with bringing bits of it home with them.
By Marc O’ Sullivan, Arts Editor

Nowhere is this more evident than in the British Museum in London. Visiting it last week, my eye was drawn to a large slab of stone, about the height and width of a man, perched upon a formal plinth in the Great Court. It bore an inscription in ogham. On a plaque beneath, the crude translation of these elegant notches — read anti-clockwise — disclosed that the slab was originally raised in honour of ‘Vedac, son of Tob of the Sogain’. It was one of three 5th century ogham stones taken from Roovesmoor Rath — a ring fort outside Coachford, in West Cork — by the delightfully named General Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt Rivers. He presented the group to the British Museum in 1866.

Pitt Rivers, who fought in the Crimean War, brought a scientific approach to archaeology. He catalogued all items found on digs, and not just those that seemed valuable, and his attention to detail vastly improved 19th century excavations, which had hitherto been conducted as glorified sackings.
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October 30, 2013

China signs agreement with Cyprus to stop illicit trafficking of artefacts

Posted at 3:49 pm in Similar cases

China & Cyprus are very different countries in many ways. They do however both face problems with looting of archaeological sites, with the spoils from these actions often eventually ending up in auctions abroad.

It is great to see them signing an agreement to clamp down on this, although the idea of countries signing numerous bilateral agreements for an issue such as this clearly does not scale well, when you consider the number of countries involved in similar issues.

Cyprus Communications Minister Tasos Mitsopoulos and China’s Culture deputy-minister Li Xiaojie

Cyprus Communications Minister Tasos Mitsopoulos and China’s Culture deputy-minister Li Xiaojie

From:
Cyprus Mail

October 29, 2013
Cyprus and China agree to safeguard artefacts

Cyprus and China have signed a bilateral agreement to safeguard their archaeological objects and prevent their illicit trading.

Communications Minister Tasos Mitsopoulos and China’s Culture deputy-minister Li Xiaojie signed on Tuesday on behalf of their respective countries a memorandum of cooperation to prevent trading of stolen goods and illicit excavations.
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Netherlands Museums Association sees return of Nazi loot as “moral obligation”

Posted at 3:34 pm in Similar cases

Nazi loot in museums has been a hot topic in recent years for many countries. While some countries are still dragging their heels in terms of any attempts at restitution, it appears that the Netherlands has taken a far more proactive approach & is examining museum collections across the board to identify artworks, along with possible rightful owners.

1921 painting 'Odalisque' by Henri Matisse

1921 painting ‘Odalisque’ by Henri Matisse

From:
Haaretz

Dutch museums identify 139 likely Nazi looted artworks
Paintings by Matisse, Klee and Kandinsky are among works thought to have been taken from Jewish owners during Holocaust.
By The Associated Press | Oct. 29, 2013 | 6:40 PM

Dutch museums announced Tuesday they have found 139 artworks that may have been looted during the Nazi era, including paintings from masters such as Matisse, Klee and Kandinsky.

The major review of all museum collections in the country found art that had either dubious or definitely suspect origins.
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Zahi Hawass at the centre of controversy over potential bribes paid by National Geographic

Posted at 3:17 pm in Similar cases

Egypt’s most publicly know archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, has never shied away from controversy. His demands for the restitution of disputed Egyptian artefacts irritated many museums around the world.

At present, I’m struggling to work out whether this particular story is a real story or not. If Hawass was involved in taking bribes to allow National Geographic to film, then it is damaging for both his & their credibility. However, there sees to be a lot in this story that is speculative – and there are many people who have an axe to grind with Hawass.

Time will tell whether there is really a story here or not.

Zahi Hawass

Zahi Hawass

From:
Independent

US investigates National Geographic over ‘corrupt payments’ to Egypt’s keeper of antiquities
David Usborne
Monday 28 October 2013

National Geographic may be facing an unexpected challenge to its reputation as one of the world’s most respected educational and scientific institutions amid reports that it is under investigation in the United States over its ties to a former Egyptian official who for years held the keys to his country’s many popular antiquities.

At issue is whether the Washington-based organisation, which in recent years has rapidly extended its public reach beyond its well-known glossy magazine to a cable television channel and other enterprises, violated strict US laws on payments to officials of foreign governments in contracts starting in 2001 with Dr Zahi Hawass, who, until the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, was the government’s sole gatekeeper to all things ancient Egypt.
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