Some weeks ago, I wrote about legal action being taken in the European Court of Human Rights by the Athenians’ Association, a private group of Greek citizens unconnected to the government.
Since then, I have been fortunate enough to conduct an in-depth interview with Vasilis Sotiropoulos, the Athenians’ Association Lawyer. In this interview, he helps to explain a bit more about the importance of the case to the Association, why it is important that action is taken now and some of the key issues on which the case is based.
Vasilis Sotiropoulos, Lawyer to the Athenians’ Association, standing in front of the Parthenon
First of all, can you tell me a bit more about your legal background?
As for my background, I studied law at Athens University and I hold a Master’s in public law. After working briefly for the European Data Protection Supervisor, I began practicing in my own office with a focus on new technologies, intellectual property and human rights. I currently serve as the elected Regional Ombudsman of the Attica Region.
I have never previously come across the Athenians’ Association. Have they always had an interest in the case of the Parthenon Marbles?
Our organisation was always talking about this topic, because it is one of the most famous legal debates of all time. As a human rights lawyer, I have always supported the idea that we Athenians should have our day in court with regard to the cultural dimension of the rights concerned. The cultural dimension of the case is a legal issue that goes beyond the sovereign rights of the Greek State.
As Plaintiffs, the people of Athens play an important part. We must bear in mind that there are families that have been living in Athens for hundreds of years. Having served as the first Ombudsman in Athens Municipality, I had the opportunity to forge relationships with citizens who are proud for their Athenian identity. In the core of these people’s soul, there is a strong demand for justice regarding the case of the Parthenon Marbles. The ancestors of some of these people were present when Elgin’s team committed this unpunished crime.
In the Greek branch of Transparency International, where I was legal advisor for some years, we used to follow a very simple definition of corruption. “Corruption is the abuse of power for personal gain”. This is exactly the case with Elgin’s removal of the Parthenon Sculptures. This is the reason why I gladly accepted the proposal to represent the Athenians’ Association before the European Court of Human Rights, although not a member of the Association myself.
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