Μαρία Γαβουνέλη, Αναπληρώτρια Καθηγήτρια Τμήματος Νομικής Ε.Κ.Π.Α.
Ελίνα Μουσταΐρα, Καθηγήτρια Τμήματος Νομικής Ε.Κ.Π.Α.
Αναστάσιος Γουργουρίνης, Λέκτωρ Τμήματος Νομικής Ε.Κ.Π.Α.
State practice in both International and National Fields, as outlined in this study, show substantial agreement on the principle of return of expatriated cultural heritage. This norm is nowadays sufficiently well established to amount to an emerging customary rule of international law. In 1989 it was already stated that “the principle of the physical return of cultural property is becoming, through increasing state and institutional practice, a custom of international law”. This norm applies much more today after many decades of constant practice of the States and the recent expansion in repatriations.
States worldwide have used all possible legal instruments and diplomacy to show their belief that cultural treasures must be returned to their countries and peoples of origin who created them and consider them as a part of their proper identity. As expounded in this study, the relevant State practice on the cultural property repatriation, including that of States whose interests are specially affected, has been both extensive and virtually uniform, in such a way as to show a general recognition that a rule of law or legal obligation is involved. State practice of the last decades, crystallized during recent years, reflects the belief that the return of Cultural Treasures to their Countries and Peoples of origin is rendered obligatory by the existence of a rule of law requiring it. This practice refers especially to the U.S.A., but also to France, U.K., Switzerland and Germany, are the most important art importing States, with some of the biggest Museums and Art Collections worldwide, as much as to Italy, Hellas, Egypt, Turkey, Peru, Mexico, China etc., which are the most important art exporting States.
The State practice on the Repatriation of Cultural Treasures is evident from the number of International and Bilateral Conventions and Protocols adopted, as completed by soft law rules and guidelines, the administrative acts or attitudes, in particular in the diplomatic field, the national legislations and the judicial acts. This practice, already stable and uniform, is confirmed by the explosion of the repatriation of antiquities during the last years, as exposed in the relevant chapters.
The great number of relevant resolutions and recommendations adopted by the organs of the international organizations, especially by the UN Security Council, mainly on the situation in Syria and Iraq, (the Resolutions of which, acting under Chapter VII of the Charter, are considered binding, in accordance with Article 25 of the Charter), strengthens the argument that a rule of customary international law on the repatriation of cultural property is already formed.
The most famous and still pending case before the UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation (ICPRCP) concerns the Hellenic Government’s demand for the return by the United Kingdom of the Parthenon Sculptures.
Humanity is conscious that the cultural heritage is an indispensable element of people’s identity and self-knowledge to the ultimate scope of the salvage and the evolution of Human Civilization. Thus the Norm of Repatriation of Cultural Treasures to their people and country of origin is well established as a Rule of International Customary Law.
Cultural Property, Cultural Treasures, Artefacts, Artifacts, Antiquities, Cultural Identity, Loot, Illicit Trafficking, Return, Repatriation, International Custom, Caryatid, Parthenon Sculptures, Parthenon Marbles, Acropolis, Acropolis Treasures, Syria, Iraq, illicit trade in antiquities