Greece Looks to UN, International Courts to Win Back Parthenon Sculptures



parthenon marblesAs the 200th anniversary of the Parthenon marbles “captivity” in the British Museum approaches, Greece is looking to international justice for their repatriation.

Greece’s Ministry of Culture is resorting to the United Nations and international courts in order to bring the sculptures to their home, says a Guardian report.

“We are trying to develop alliances which we hope would eventually lead to an international body like the United Nations to come with us against the British Museum,” Culture Minister Aristides Baltas told The Guardian.

“If the UN represents all nations of the world and all nations of the world say ‘the marbles should be returned’ then we’ll go to court because the British Museum would be against humanity,” he said. “We do not regard the Parthenon as exclusively Greek but rather as a heritage of humanity,” he added.

However, Baltas said, the move might backfire and Greece might lose any further chance to reclaim the sculptures.

“Courts do not by definition regard [any] issue at the level of history or morality or humanity-at-large. They look at the laws,” Baltas said. “As there are no hard and fast rules regarding the issue of returning treasures taken away from various countries, there is no indisputable legal basis.”

In 2014, a Greek shipowner on conditions of anonymity hired a London law firm specializing in cultural restitution for advice. It took lawyers about a year to draft a legal proposal.

“We consider that international law has evolved to a position which recognises, as part of the sovereignty of a state, its right to reclaim cultural property of great historical significance which has been wrongly taken in the past – a rule that would entitle Greece to recover and reunite the Parthenon sculptures,” the lawyers said, claiming that [Greece] “would stand a reasonable prospect of success,” according to The Guardian report.

However, the Greek government has to act fast, the lawyers said. because “Greece may be met with the argument that it has ‘slept on its rights’ too long for them to be enforced.”


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