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Top lawyers to advise Greece on Parthenon Marbles

Geoffrey Robertson (who has previously dealt with high profile cases such as fighting extradition of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange), along with Amal Alamuddin (who may be better known to many as the new Mrs George Clooney) are amongst lawyers, who have been asked to meet with the Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to discuss the issue of the Parthenon sculptures.

It is not yet known what form these discussions might take, or what approach they might be inviting the Greek government to take.

Amal’s involvement with the Parthenon Marbles follows the statements made by her now husband, George Clooney [1] at the premiere of the film Monuments Men earlier this year.

Amal Alamuddin & Geoffrey Robertson [2]

Amal Alamuddin & Geoffrey Robertson

Sydney Morning Herald [3]

Amal Alamuddin and Geoffrey Robertson team up to win back Elgin Marbles for Greece
Nick Miller, Europe Correspondent
October 9, 2014 – 11:13AM

London: The new “Mrs Clooney” has her first post-wedding job – and it’s a doozy.

In tandem with fellow human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson, Amal Alamuddin is taking sides in one of the most controversial cultural arguments of recent history: she will try to win the return of the Elgin Marbles to Greece.

The Elgin Marbles – classical sculptures from Athens’ ancient Parthenon – are in London’s British Museum. They were removed from the ruins on the Acropolis by British ambassador Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, in the early 19th century.

The move is now regarded as either a scandalous cultural heist, or a sensible protective measure, and has been fiercely debated. The poet Byron protested their removal at the time, musing “curst be the hour when from their isle they roved”.

Ms Alamuddin’s husband more recently dipped his toe in the old dispute. Earlier this year George Clooney said returning the Parthenon’s classic sculptures to their ancient home “would perhaps be the right thing to do” (while promoting his movie The Monuments Men).

Greece launched a new campaign for the return of the Marbles on Monday.

Ms Alamuddin has reportedly been advising the Greek government on their cause, along with her colleagues at Doughty Street Chambers in London.

Next week she will fly to Athens with Australian expat Mr Robertson, to meet with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his cabinet.

It is Ms Alamuddin’s first professional engagement since her star-studded wedding in Venice.

The team will outline possible legal measures that could force the return of the marbles.

In 2007 Mr Robertson successfully argued for the return of Tasmanian Aboriginal artefacts to Australia from the UK’s Natural History Museum.

In his 2012 book Crimes Against Humanity he explained his theory of an international right to the return of cultural property.

“There is considerable support for the emergence of an international rule requiring the return of cultural treasures of great national significance,” he wrote.

Such a rule would not result in the emptying of Western museums, he said, it would only apply to “unique” works such as the marbles – a “living symbol of history and culture” from the time of the birth of democracy. It would be based on international treaties and conventions that grant countries a “right to culture”.

The marbles include 75 metres of friezes depicting mythological scenes, and 17 statues.

Until recently the UK argued there was no museum in Greece capable of looking after the marbles properly. Greece opened a new museum on the Acropolis in Athens in 2009 which was purpose-built to house them.

However, the UK still opposes the move – in response to Mr Clooney’s comment, John Whittingdale, the chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, responded “he probably doesn’t know the history of the Elgin Marbles and the legal entitlement that Britain has to them”.

The UK argues that Lord Elgin was given permission to take the marbles by the Ottomans who ruled Athens at the time, and that they held global, not just Greek significance. They also point out that the marbles in London have been taken much better care of than the ones that remained exposed to modern pollution and decay in Athens.

Daily Telegraph [4]

George Clooney’s wife Amal Alamuddin aids Greece’s bid for return of Elgin Marbles
Amal Alamuddin, the human rights barrister, is to fly to Greece to advise the government on the Elgin Marbles, months after her husband George Clooney called for their return
By Edward Malnick
8:37PM BST 08 Oct 2014

When George Clooney issued a plea for the Elgin Marbles to be returned to Greece earlier this year his sudden intervention prompted surprise among many of his fans and consternation among MPs firmly opposed to his view.

Now it has emerged the actor’s interest may have been prompted by his new wife’s sympathy for the Greek cause.

Amal Alamuddin, 36, a barrister, has been quietly advising the Greek government on the issue and is due to fly out next week to discuss the matter with Antonis Samaras, the prime minister.

She will be part of a delegation led by Geoffrey Robertson, the human rights QC who is joint head of Doughty Street Chambers, where Ms Alamuddin specialises in international and criminal law.

It is understood that the Greek government approached the chambers several years ago to seek help in its attempt to relocate the marbles from their current home at the British museum to Greece.

The classical marbles – officially known as the Parthenon sculptures – were taken from the Parthenon in Athens by Lord Elgin in the early 19th century. They were acquired by parliament in 1816 and since 1962 have been housed in the museum’s Duveen Galleries.

David Cameron and a number of other MP have opposed calls for their return.

In February Clooney, 53, whose wedding to Ms Alamuddin took place in Venice last month, waded into the long-running row by saying Britain should hand the treasures back to Greece.

His surprise intervention came at a press conference for his film, The Monuments Men in which an Allied team retrieved artworks looted by the Nazis.

Asked about the marbles by a Greek reporter, Clooney said: “I think you have a very good case to make about your artefacts.” He went on to say that returning the marbles would be a “very fair and very nice thing” and “the right thing to do”.

His comments prompted a strong response from MPs, including John Whittingdale, the chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, who politely suggested the actor might not really know what he was talking about.

“I’m a great admirer of George Clooney, but I suspect that he probably doesn’t know the history of the Elgin Marbles and the legal entitlement that Britain has to them,” he said.

Clooney defended his remarks, insisting that polling in England showed a preference for returning the artefacts to Greece and calling for an “open discussion” on the matter.

The British Museum insists there is a “public benefit” in the sculptures remaining part of their collection.

It is understood that Mr Robertson, 68, and Ms Alamuddin are flying out to discuss ways that the Greek government can pursue its bid to secure the return of the marbles, rather than to initiate a particular legal case against Britain.

Greece is currently waiting for the British Government to decide whether it will take part in a “mediation procedure” being proposed by Unesco, the United Nations cultural organisation.