Friday 26 March 2010

Renfrew Summarises two significant cases

The text by Renfrew summarised above included a succinct statement on two significant court judgements, in the United States and in Britain, which I think worth quoting for future cross references. These recognised the right of nations to claim illegally removed artefacts as national property and to achieve restitution.
The first of these is the United States v. Schultz case, where on June 25th 2003 the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York upheld the conviction of the dealer Frederick Schultz on the charge of conspiracy to receive stolen property. (Gerstenblith 2003; see Silver 2009, 211). The property in question was an ancient Egyptian stone head. The key point was the provision of the National Stolen Property Act which held that anything deemed stolen by a foreign country would also be considered stolen under U.S. law. For Egypt is one of the many nations which has legislation determining the buried antiquities are the property of the state [...] It was against the background of the Schultz ruling that the Metropolitan Museum and the Getty Museum decided to return to Italy the antiquities which had been claimed. It is likely that without the Schultz ruling the position would have been much less satisfactory.

Gerstenblith P., 2003, The McClain/Schultz doctrine: another step against the trade in stolen antiquities, Culture without Context 13, 5-8.
Silver V., 2009, The Lost Chalice, New York, William Morrow.

The other case was in England:
A comparable decision was made by the English Court of Appeal on 21st December 2007 in the case of Islamic Republic of Iran v. Barakat Galleries Ltd. Here the court decided that Iran could indeed show it had good title under Iranian law to antiquities excavated in Iran, and could therefore seek to recover such antiquities. The judgement of the court explicitly recognised that Britain had ratified the 1970 UNESCO Convention against the illicit traffic in cultural property and was formulated with that as an underlying and relevant factor. The decision opens the way for Iran to recover the looted antiquities held by the Barakat Galleries which were subject to dispute. The ruling, like that in the Schultz case in the United State, has wide general applicability.

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