Thursday 12 June 2014

Two takes on the Ka Nefer Nefer Forfeiture Finale

Two US lawyers give their account of the fiasco which ended the Ka Nefer Nefer fofeiture case U.S. v. Mask of Ka Nefer Nefer. Rick St Hilaire (Thursday, June 12, 2014, 'Eighth Circuit Rules in the Case of the Ka Nefer Nefer Mummy Mask'). He gives a useful summary of the whole debacle and includes a copy of the latest appellate decision (here). [and also a useful checklist of his previous posts on the topic here]. 

here  is a list of his previous posts on the topic]. He notes the legal questions raised by the whole sequence of cases and appeals:
 will have to wait another day, because the case was resolved on the government’s missed deadlines and nothing more [...] The case is, to put it bluntly, a huge embarrassment for the government.  The seizure petition had serious issues of logic and proof, as the District Court pointed out.  But now that question will never be litigated on the merits; to lose the right to appeal for a missed deadline by the DOJ would almost be malpractice per se by a private lawyer.
Anyway, as a result of this series of mess-ups, the mask will stay where it is, despite everybody knowing that it really should not, no doubt to the delight of SLAM's curators, trustees and donors and those of the inhabitants of that city who want to see controversial antiquities on display in US museums. As O'Donnell notes: "the companion declaratory judgment case of SLAM v. U.S., which focuses on whether SLAM has good title to the mummy mask, remains unaffected by today’s appeals court ruling". Let us see how that goes....

One wonders about what this says about the ability of the US to fulfil one of the fundamental postulates of the 1970 UNESCO Convention Article 7: "to prevent museums and similar institutions within their territories from acquiring cultural property originating in another State Party which has been illegally exported [...] to prohibit the import of cultural property stolen from a museum or a religious or secular public monument or similar institution", quite frankly, in the full view of the rest of the world, the US has here clearly totally failed in this regard. Another reason to sign that MOU tout suite. 

UPDATE 13th June 2014
 Now, it seems the US taxpayer has to foot the bill of SLAM's lawyers, according to a lobbyist for the antiquities trade who is clearly overjoyed about this 'win' and the (as he puts it) 'disgracing' of Zahi Hawass. Which just goes to show how small-minded US antiquity dealers and their lobbyists are. 


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