Showing results 25 - 36 of 667 for the tag: Cultural Property.

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 27, 2014

The Parthenon Marbles & the National Gallery director

Posted at 2:06 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

I don’t quite know what to make of this article. On the one hand he’s saying that the Parthenon Marbles could return to Greece, which is great. On the other hand though, he is saying that they must not become pawns of political exploitation & that the issue over where they belong must not become an obsession. Its hard to see how these can be separated out though – its almost saying that they would only be returned if Greece wasn’t really interested in them.

He then talks about how they would not be displayed on the monument – but this is not something that anyone has sensibly proposed for a long time now. The New Acropolis Museum was designed & constructed especially for this purpose & the way in which it relates to the original building has already been discussed many times on this site.

National Gallery director Nicholas Penny

National Gallery director Nicholas Penny

From:
Greek Reporter

Great Britain Challenges Greece on Elgin Marbles
by Iro-Anna Mamakouka – Feb 24, 2014

The director of London’s National Gallery, Nicholas Penny, is challenging Greece once more on the issue of the Parthenon’s Marbles, suggesting that Greece and Britain share them.

According to him, the British Museum has recognized to some extent, the profound importance that the Marbles have for Greece and that lending the Marbles to the Greek state is under discussion as long as they do not become pawns of political exploitation.
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February 25, 2014

When will UK respond to Parthenon Marbles mediation request

Posted at 2:13 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Greece’s requests for mediation through UNESCO over the return of the Parthenon Marbles were made in early October 2013, but so far there has been no response from the British Museum or British Government.

Now, the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures has written to the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary & Culture Secretary, along with the Trustees of the British Museum, imploring them to take this request seriously.

UNESCO logo

UNESCO logo

From:
International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures

Dear Prime Minster

Last week the Guardian published the results of a poll that showed 88% of respondents believe Britain should return the Parthenon Sculptures to Greece. The poll is consistent with all the other surveys in recent years that demonstrate overwhelming British public support on this issue.

The widespread support for the return of the Marbles is not limited to the British public. There are now volunteer organisations in 16 countries that have been formed to support the claim for the sculptures to be returned; in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA. (partheononinternational.org)

As you would be aware, last year the Director General of UNESCO, Irini Bokova, wrote to your Government requesting that Britain agree to participate in a UNESCO process of mediation to settle the dispute over the Parthenon Sculptures.

There are strong moral arguments for Britain to accept the UNESCO mediation initiative that would allow the issue of the Parthenon Sculptures to be resolved in a spirit of cooperation, good will and friendship, with both sides being able to respect each other’s sensitivities.

We are also confident that in a mediation process there would be the opportunity for the British Museum to explore mutually beneficial arrangements with Greece involving the return of the Marbles that would leave the British Museum in a stronger position than at present.

Accordingly, I would urge you to support the British participation in the proposed UNESCO mediation process.

I will next be in London in March and would very much like the opportunity of meeting with you to discuss the matter.

Yours sincerely

David Hill
Chairman

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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February 16, 2014

Promakhos trailer – a fight for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures

Posted at 11:57 pm in Elgin Marbles

Just a few days after I last wrote about the filming of Promakhos, one of the directors got in touch with me, to let me know that the first trailer of the film had now been posted online.

The film is about a legal challenge over the Parthenon Marbles. This is an interesting dimension to the issue, as it is something that has often been raised as a possibility by campaigners & very credible cases have been put forward by a number of high profile lawyers (not least the father of the directors of this movie), but it has always been something that the Greek government has steered well clear of having any involvement with.

Having read the script a couple of years ago, I’m very eager to see the completed film once it is out later this year.

Matt Damon, Bill Murray & George Clooney on Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 11:43 pm in Elgin Marbles

More coverage of the comments made by some of the stars of the film Monuments Men, on the return of the Parthenon Sculptures.

George Clooney & Bill Murray

George Clooney & Bill Murray

From:
Independent

George Clooney hits back at claims he does not understand Britain’s right to Elgin Marbles
Star responds to criticism at press conference to promote his latest film ‘The Monuments Men’
Ian Johnston
Tuesday 11 February 2014

George Clooney has hit back at suggestions that he does not understand Britain’s right to the Elgin Marbles because he is an American, as the row between Hollywood and Westminster escalated with Matt Damon and Bill Murray also weighing in.

On Saturday at a press conference in Berlin to promote his new film The Monuments Men, Clooney said he thought the marble sculptures taken from the Parthenon in Athens by the Earl of Elgin in the 19th century should be returned to Greece after a question from a Greek journalist.

That prompted John Whittingdale, the chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, to tell The Independent on Sunday that Clooney might not know about the UK’s “legal entitlement” to the priceless artefacts partly because “he’s an American”.
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February 11, 2014

Bill Murray & Matt Damon also support Marbles return

Posted at 10:57 pm in Elgin Marbles

George Clooney has today re-stated his comments made a few days ago about the return of the Parthenon Marbles. This is in part prompted by the response by John Whittingdale of the DCMS Select Committee, who implied that being from the US, rather than the UK, Clooney probably did not know what he was talking about & did not fully understand the issue.

Today, Clooney’s support was also echoed by two of the other stars of the film – Bill Murray & Matt Damon, who came out in support of the issue at today’s press conference, where Clooney remarked that the subject was something that needed an open discussion.

An open discussion (or indeed any form of discussion) is something that campaigners have encouraged the British Museum to take part in for years. At present, it continues to issue press releases, or ignore the issue & hope it will disappear, while what is needed is a proper attempt by all parties to tackle the issue – something that the currently proposed UNESCO mediation process is intended to achieve.

In an issue, where in the past many museum professionals have spoken out in support of return, only to later backtrack, it is great that Clooney has taken the time to read up some more about the issue & to double check that his understanding of the facts was correct, before then re-stating that he still believes exactly what he said previously.

Finally, there is a peculiar response from the shadow culture minister, Helen Goodman, at the end of the Article, where she says: “How would George Clooney feel if he could only act in American films shown in the US?” If anybody can explain to me what on earth she is on about here, I’d love to have this point clarified.

Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and George Clooney

Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and George Clooney

From:
Guardian

George Clooney, Bill Murray and Matt Damon back return of Elgin marbles
Hollywood actors say Greek sculptures have had a “very nice stay” in Britain but should be returned
Mark Brown and Helena Smith in Athens
The Guardian, Tuesday 11 February 2014 20.44 GMT

They came to promote a film showing how millions of artworks were rescued and returned to their rightful owners after plunder by the Nazis. But George Clooney, Bill Murray and Matt Damon left implying that Britain, too, needed to have a long, hard, look at itself.

The Hollywood actors had become embroiled in one of the fiercest of all heritage controversies: should the Elgin marbles, removed from the Parthenon 200 years ago, be housed in London or in Athens?
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George Clooney on the Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 2:02 pm in Elgin Marbles

More coverage of George Clooney’s statements about the Parthenon Marbles & how he believes that they should be returned to Greece.

George Clooney

George Clooney

From:
Guardian

George Clooney backs return of Parthenon Marbles to Greece
Actor says it would be “very nice” if the British Museum reptriates ancient frieze removed by Lord Elgin in 19th century
Maev Kennedy
The Guardian, Sunday 9 February 2014 20.16 GMT

George Clooney has strolled into one of the most bitter and longest-running controversies in the heritage world, saying it would be “very nice” if the British Museum sent the Parthenon Marbles back to Greece.

Clooney, at the Berlin Film Festival promoting The Monuments Men, the story of an Allied team trying to save artefacts from the Nazis, was asked by a Greek reporter whether Britain should return the Marbles.
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February 6, 2014

Promakhos – a movie about the Parthenon Marbles, Justice & Greece

Posted at 2:15 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

John Vorhees is an US based lawyer who I have known for a number of years now as a campaigner for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens.

Last year, he introduced me to his sons John & Coerte, explaining that they intended to make a film about the reunification of the sculptures and were looking for actors to fill the lead roles.

Filming on the project started last month in Athens, for what promises to be a very interesting film, highlighting one approach that could be taken to handle the restitution of the sculptures.

Promotional image for the Promakhos movie

Promotional image for the Promakhos movie

You can view the website for the film here. For the most up to date information, follow the facebook page that they have created for the film.

More information about the cast is available on IMDB.

View the trailer for the movie in a separate later post I made here.

January 20, 2014

IARPS support for the UNESCO mediation process to resolve the Marbles deadlock

Posted at 11:13 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, International Association

The International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures has expressed to David Cameron, the need for Britain to support the request from UNESCO for mediation on the Parthenon Sculptures issue.

From:
IARPS

A letter from the IARPS to the British Prime Minister

The Rt Hon David Cameron MP
10 Downing Street
London
SW1A 2AA

Dear Prime Minister

I am writing to draw your attention to the world wide support for the Parthenon Sculptures held in the British Museum to be returned to Greece.
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