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Greece advised to take Parthenon Marbles case to ECHR

Last Autumn, the Greek Government met with a team of Lawyers [1] from the UK, to discuss the legal options available to them in trying to resolve the dispute over the Parthenon Marbles.

The Lawyers were commissioned to produce a more detailed report, which it was later revealed was funded by a wealthy Greek individual [2]rather than by the government.

Since the process started, the government which started it has been replaced by a new SYRIZA led coalition [3].

This report has now been delivered to Greece and some details of it have managed to leak to the Greek Press.

The proposals suggest various possible options, including the International Courts of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights. One key aspect of the proposals is the point that action should be taken now, otherwise the opportunity to take it may be lost for ever, through the doctrine of laches and acquiescence. Greece’s window of opportunity is limited, so if they are ever going to take this route, the time is now.

When the legal team first visited Athens, Greece was still awaiting a response from Britain regarding mediation through UNESCO. Since then, a negative response has been received [4] by Greece and the nature of this response suggests that a change of policy is unlikely in the near future – meaning that litigation may now be the only option left for Greece.

Part of the Parthenon frieze in the British Museum [5]

Part of the Parthenon frieze in the British Museum

Independent [6]

Elgin Marbles: Greece should take UK to court over sculptures, claim human rights lawyers
Ian Johnston
Tuesday 12 May 2015

Greece should take the UK to an international court to win back the so-called Elgin Marbles, according to legal advice prepared by senior human rights lawyers including Amal Clooney and Geoffrey Robertson.

Athens has the best chance of securing control of the sculptures if it takes action through the International Court of Justice or the European Court of Human Rights, according to a 150-page report prepared by its team of eminent global lawyers.

Such a step would represent a marked escalation in the Greek government’s campaign to retrieve the marbles. Greece has long sought their return but has never previously taken legal action.

About half of the sculptures on the Ancient Greek Parthenon temple were taken by Lord Elgin in the early 1800s and he later sold them to the British Government after getting into financial trouble. They have been kept in the British Museum ever since.

Last year the Greek government commissioned a team of international lawyers, including Amal Clooney – the Lebanese-British wife of actor George – to advise on securing their return. Reports in the Greek press suggest that legal action is now likely.

“The British adhere to international law… The Greek government has never taken advantage of this Achilles’ heel,” the Kathimerini newspaper quoted the lawyers’ advice as saying. “You must take legal action now or you may lose the opportunity to do so due to future legal obstacles.”

The lawyers reportedly suggest that Greece should first make a formal request for the marbles’ return, then lodge a claim at the International Court of Justice. If that court refused to take the case, then Athens should approach the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. A source said the legal team believe that if an international court accepted jurisdiction, then there would be a “75-80 per cent chance” that it would rule in Greece’s favour. The legal advice cites a precedent in which Thailand was forced to return sculptures removed from a Hindu temple, Preah Vihear, to Cambodia by an International Court of Justice ruling in 1962.

It also suggests the Strasbourg court would look favourably on the case under the European Convention on Human Rights. One possible obstacle is the Conservatives have pledged to change the law so that Strasbourg’s rulings are “no longer binding” on the British Supreme Court. And the new Culture Secretary, John Whittingdale, has made clear that he supports the British Museum.

The Greek government has said only that its current stance was unchanged.

A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media & Sport said: “The Parthenon sculptures were acquired legally in accordance with the law of the time and the British Museum is the rightful owner.”

Andrew George, chairman of UK-based campaign group Marbles Reunited, said the prospect of a court case was “very regrettable”.

“It’s just such an enormous pity it’s got to this. The ignominy this will bring on Britain … this is going to make Britain look very small, as if we are purely self-interested and not considerate of the sensitivities of other countries,” he said.

Kathimerini (Google translated) [7]

GREECE 05/10/2015: 12:25
The five scenarios for the Marbles
MARIANNA Kakaounaki

“Now or never … H hour (the claim) has come …”. This conclusion is emphatic three famous lawyers in London, Amal Alamountin-Clooney Jeffrey Robertson and Norman Palmer, in secret legal memorandum have drawn on the Parthenon Marbles. In the ten-page note in the possession of the “K”, they have been given the first answers to three basic questions of a possible application, namely: “To which court, at what cost and with what prospects of success.”

The content of the note had been discussed during the much talked trip lawyers in Athens last October. Based on this and thanks to the generous offer of a private sponsor who took “account” of 200,000 euros, finally received by the previous government the “green light” to continue their legal research.

Then, pledged that it will send to the Ministry of Culture primarily two things: a comprehensive and integrated legal proposal that exceeds 150 pages and a memo “less legalistic” to be used by the press office of the Ministry of Culture as part of an integrated strategy have design.


The “K” is now in the secret note on which to base the study of lawyers, which was expected to be sent to the ministry within days – but some points that may be considered “wild card” in the arsenal of Greek terms omitted as it is important to stay secrets. In that note, are analyzed basically five different approaches: the recourse to court in Greece, Britain, the US, the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Of these, the action in the US is no longer considered probable.

In each approach are analyzed ‘pluses and minuses’, the cost and the course of other cases that can to some extent be compared with the assertion of Marbles raising precedent.
Greece England

The choice of the two contenders countries has negative for obvious reasons: a positive decision, almost sigouri- Greek court would be “adoron gift” for the desired result, since the British side has no obligation to follow it. However, as noted, may be a move “strategy” that would be parallel to other courts and the decision could be used as an extra “paper” in order to establish the illegal abduction of Elgin.

As for England, there is following main limit, behind which is sure to fortify the British Museum: a regulation of 1963 forbidding the stewards (trustees) of the museum to decide the fate of the exhibits and to “give” somewhere else. Nevertheless, thanks in another case in 2005 with the other party again the British Museum, the lawyers believe that there is “legal precedent” and that this ban can be circumvented sufficient to convince the court that the sculptures, because of the way ” passed “in the possession of the museum, do not fit” moral “collection. They conclude, however, that such an appeal would have little chance of success (15%) and huge costs which will have to bear the lost.

In The Hague

“Both England and Greece respect the decisions of the International Court,” said the lawyers. Moreover, they note that this court has dealt in the past with the Cambodian case against Thailand and particularly the Hindu Preah Vihear temple on the border between the two countries, which was occupied by Thailand, thus removed and some sculptures. The vindication of Cambodia creates judicial precedent in favor of the Greek side, while important for Greece The possibility of the court concerned to request an “advisory assistance” by the General Assembly of UNESCO, which, thanks to the persistent efforts of Greek diplomatic mission in recent years lies particularly friendly Greek request.

The last alternative considered in the legal memo is a “European solution” by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The 47 judges from the Member States is very likely to be “friendly” to the Greece and affected by specific international conventions (Unidroit, UNESCO and a European directive of ’93). Indeed, Article 8 – ‘Right to respect for private life “- has, according to lawyers, interpreted in at least two other cases (concerning Roma and residents of Tahiti) and” protection and respect for cultural identity. ” Undoubtedly, the lawyers argue, that the marbles are in the heart of the Greek identity as a symbol of history and culture.

“The British comply with international laws … The Greek government has never so far not used this” Achilles heel. ” You need to proceed legally – if you do in the near future, the opportunity can be lost due to prescription or other legal obstacles, “conclude.

First letter after the court

Aim of lawyers is because the Greek side decides to proceed, be notified a version of legal study in the British Government and the British Museum along with a letter to the Prime Minister return of the Marbles. If you refuse, they will officially launch a legal claim. First step, to be lodged by the Greek prime minister’s request to the International Court of Justice.

If the Greek claim failed (this does not result in a negative decision on the merits, but on the process), then Greece could submit a request to the European Court of Human Rights. The three lawyers had even accepted an invitation to come to Greece in late January as part of an event with representatives of the claim committees from around the world. The event was postponed due to elections, while new partners now towards them, the lawyers had not been the first time information on the intentions of the new government. Finally, through our ambassador in London they learned that the deputy minister of Culture Nikos Xydakis expects their study. Then apologies that are willing at any time to come to Athens to discuss the next steps in person.