Sunday, 2 August 2015

Kulturgutschutzgesetz: die rechtliche Seite des Referentenentwurfs

Joachim Walser (Münzenwoche)
Joachim Walser, author of 'Kulturgutschutzgesetz: die rechtliche Seite des Referentenentwurfs' which Ursula Kampmann has published in MünzenWoche looks like the kind of man to enjoy a good laugh. But here in all Bavarian seriousness we have a detailed breakdown of the draft of the Cultural Property Protection Law currently under discussion (updated to take into account the amendments made on 14th July 2015).   It seems from looking at his approach that Mr Walser is a collector (a coin collector?) himself. I expect the Munich translation gnomes are busy scribbling away in their cave next to the Coin Elves, so let's leave more detailed discussion until I can quote from the official Coin Weekly version. But generally, on reading this, it seems to me that the Munich dealers do really seem to be scraping the bottom of the barrel. 

According to Mr Walser, the whole draft law is a travesty, he argues it's even against the Human Rights Convention. He is splitting hairs in a number of the criticisms made, and suddenly in the middle of a section quotes the parable of the Treasure from Matthew 13 - it is wholly unclear why. If, however, the draft law says what he indicates, he has a point in other areas and it is a shame that these more useful remarks get lost in a burden of over-critical dross. For example, he gets really lost in the section on "Widerrechtliche Anforderung an Herkunftsnachweis", citing wholly irrelevant examples from ancient Roman history but failing to develop the point, becoming sucked in by the Cuno-esque "Wer ist aber nun der Nachfolgestaat solcher untergegangenen Kulturen?". This is quite beside the point.

He says if German law is to require of German dealers and collectors that they bear in mind in their transactions involving material from foreign countries the laws of those foreign countries regarding what one can and cannot legally do with antiquities in and from that territory, that the German state (Lander?) should provide them with a complete set of translations into German of all of those laws. Since that is impossible, he says the proposed law is unworkable. The German state however has no obligation to give dealers everything on a plate. If a Munich dealer wants to import cars and car parts from Detroit, it is not the responsibility of the Bavarian land to hand him a German translation of every applicable law of the USA and the countries his trade transits. The car dealer would have to find a lawyer to explain it to him. If an American dentist wants to go lion shooting in Zimbabwe and does not know the laws, it's no use blaming his problems on the fact that they cannot find Zimbabwean wildlife protection laws on the USA Department of State website. If you don't know Albanian antiquities laws, don't try to trade in Albanian antiquities.  If you cannot access legally-obtained Albanian antiquities, don't try to set up business selling Albanian antiquities. Simple. Don't expect everything on a plate all the time. It's immture.

In a subsequent section Mr Walser abandons the idea that this law is about all cultural property, and focuses on the part of the German discussion concerning so-called conflict antiquities. He claims that the reason for the new law is not the desire of the German state to clean up its domestic antiquities market as a state party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention, but specifically to fight terrorist financing, an idea he dismisses as "Falsche Prämissen und fehlende Datengrundlage" (diese Behauptung ist falsch und mit nichts belegt). He does not adduce anby real evidence to support his dismissal, merely piously using another Biblical quote (!) to justify trotting out the dealers' argument:
Es ist denklogisch ausgeschlossen, dass Organisationen, wie die IS, die antike Stätten in großem Umfang zerstören, weil dies bereits Mohammed so praktiziert hat und ihren radikalen Kulturwandel stützt, andererseits ihrer Meinung nach heidnische Kultgegenstände erhalten und veräußern. Diese Organisationen versuchen, die Wurzeln ihrer Länder auszurotten, um eine neue Kultur darauf zu setzen. Es widerspricht dieser Ideologie infolgedessen, alte Kultgegenstände zu erhalten und damit auch, damit Handel zu treiben („analog“ Altes Testament. 5. Buch Mose, Kapitel 7).
Well, that's that then. Moses says you should destroy idols, so no looting is going on anywhere in Syria or Iraq to finance any kind of fighting. So all those holes we see on the satellite photos, and all those busts ripped out of Palmyra tombs, that's the work of naughty Moslem boys who sat at the back of their Koran classes and messed around, so they have no idea what Mohammed or Moses would have done? As I said Mr W. looks like a man who enjoys a laugh.

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