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Looting

  • Looted Ethiopian Treasure

    April 19, 2018

    On April 13, it was the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Maqdala between the British empire and the Abyssinian empire, in modern day Ethiopia. The battle of 1868, which basically started as an expedition to free British hostages taken by the Abyssinian emperor, resulted in a decisive victory for the British and the suicide of the Abyssinian emperor Tewodros. In the aftermath, the British troops plundered the empire and loaded 15 elephants and almost 200 mules with their spoils. The Victoria and Albert Museum now hosts a special display with a number of the artifacts. This exposition raises the issue of the restitution of the looted artifacts to Ethiopia.

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  • Cultural Heritage

    Cultural Heritage distinguishes between Tangible Cultural Heritage and Intangible Cultural Heritage. Tangible Cultural Heritage can include archaeological sites, artifacts, buildings, monuments and culturally significant landscapes such as sacred places whereas Intangible Cultural Heritage can include language, oral histories, beliefs, rituals, ceremonies, customs, music, dance and other arts. The most important international organization that deals with Cultural Heritage is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

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  • Hide & Seek in the Art World

    March 23, 2017

    When we look at a piece of art, we enter the secret world of art. When we buy a piece of art, we enter the secret world of the art market. When anonymity in the art market is about protecting privacy, it’s a legitimate ground for secrecy. When secrecy paints a picture of a thinly regulated art trade where anonymity is used as playground to shield all kinds of doubtful behaviour and ownership, it is questionable. Law firms play a crucial role in this questionable secrecy in art market. Those law firms service their clients by incorporating and operating shell companies in ‘friendly’ jurisdictions and perform money laundering services as their core business. Law firms boost their client’s assets and inject them into the legal economy, through different money laundering schemes.

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  • The Emerging Legal Regime of Wrecks of Warships

    February 3, 2017

    The status in international law of operational warships has been long established. In contrast, the status of such vessels after they have sunk has been, and remains, a matter of considerable uncertainty. The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provides no rules whatsoever relating to sunken warships nor to wrecks more generally. However, over the last decades, technological advances have led to the discovery of many new wreck sites, fuelling commercial interest in these wrecks. As we have seen in our previous blog, illegal scavenging of war wrecks has caused significant upset among governments, war veterans and historians who want to preserve the final resting place of sailors who went down with their ships.

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  • Java Sea: Dutch, British and U.S. WW II Shipwrecks destroyed by Illegal Scavenging

    December 2, 2016

    An international investigation has been launched into the mysterious disappearance of Dutch Second World War shipwrecks which have vanished from the bottom of the Java Sea off the coast of Indonesia. In a press statement on 15 November, the Dutch Defence Ministery has confirmed that the wrecks of two of its warships that sank in 1942, the HNLMS De Ruyter (see photo) and HNLMS Java, have completely gone, while large parts of a third, the HNLMS Kortenaer, are also missing. The Dutch Defence Ministry immediateley launched an investigation as to what happened to the wrecks, suggesting the wrecks may have been illegally salvaged for the scrap metal market.

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  • Relief from Arch of Titus in Rome showing the spoils of Jerusalem

    ‘The World Forgetting, by the World Forgot’

    November 17, 2016

    At present there are many complex legal cases on cultural heritage waiting to be settled. These cases are a judicial challenge for all stakeholders. What makes it even more of a challenge is that most don’t realise the fact that cultural heritage is a component of a human rights issue. Cultural heritage could be described as a record of the genius of human beings. The legacy of artefacts, antiquities, traditions and living expressions could be seen as unintelligible foot print left behind for the next generations to mark our path through this world. It’s unimaginable to separate a people’s cultural heritage from the people itself and their rights.

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