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Comprehensive Model Prototype claiming looted antiquities

10 January, 2014

Based on the findings of International Roundtable on “Art Trafficking and Restitution” at the Peace Palace, the Hague

A Model prototype, claiming looted antiquities along with a mapping template of the international scene on the looting of cultural heritage, has been completed and will be sent today to international organizations and personalities including the United Nations, UNESCO and the EU.

The Model features the findings of the proposals presented at an international roundtable of experts on ‘Art Trafficking and Restitution- lessons from Cyprus and Afghanistan.’ Organized by the non-profit organization, Walk of Truth, the event took place at the Peace Palace in the Hague on 16th of September 2013 (video from the Roundtable http://walkoftruth.com/art-trafficking-and-restitution-the-video).

The Model is the result of a high-level discussion of over 50 experts on art trafficking and its links to organized crime, lawyers, academics and officials from Interpol and Europol. Illegal art trade cases from Afghanistan and Cyprus were discussed. The Cypriot cases, four icons of Antiphonitis and the Munich case, were examined by lawyers, Robert Polak and Thomas Kline respectively.

Walk of Truth founder, Tasoula Hadjitofi, who has been a pioneer in the success of some of the most significant cases pertaining to the destruction of the cultural heritage of Cyprus, was one of the keynote speakers. Other speakers included Peter Kitschler, former director of the Bavarian Police (head of the Munich case in 1997 re. Turkish smuggler, Aydin Dikmen), Dr. Willy Bruggeman, former director of Europol and president of the Belgian Federal Police Council, Steven van Hoogstraten, director of the Carnegie Foundation (Peace Palace), Bruce Clark, journalist for The Economist and author, Dr. Norman Palmer, law professor at King’s College, Omar Said Sultan, advisor to the Ministry of Culture of Afghanistan, Martin Finkelnberg Head of the Art and Antique
Crime Unit of the Netherlands, Anna Kedziorek, European Commission, Dr. Wouter Veraart, Professor of Philosophy of Law at the University of Amsterdam and others.

The recommendations and findings made at the Conference were analyzed by Walk of Truth experts and the Belgian Police, and have been used as the foundation of the Model strategy to address the issue of cultural heritage destruction and illicit art trade at a political level. Furthermore, the Belgian police offered experts for mapping to Walk of Truth for this project.

The Model takes into account new data concerning cultural heritage destruction and illicit art trade, as these take shape in the new socio - political framework of a united Europe.

The Roundtable discussion highlighted topics which call for the adoption of new ways of reclaiming stolen treasures, due to the following facts:

- Illicit trade of cultural heritage is a growing phenomenon, along with drugs and arms smuggling.
- The fight against illicit trade is a complex task due to numerous legal obstacles such as the lack of harmonization of the legislation of Member States with international conventions .
- Illicit trade deserves more attention on a political level.
-The role of activists is significant and catalytic and it is important to engage with them as institutions.

Museum of Disputed Art

At the Roundtable, special reference was made to works of art, which become objects of illicit trade and are stored in warehouses until their return to their rightful home is settled. Tasoula Hadjitofi had a noteworthy suggestion to make, which was embraced and applauded by the Netherlands- the creation of a Museum of Disputed Art, which will act as a shelter to these treasures.

‘Legal procedures can be very lengthy, so, rather than having these treasures locked away in warehouses, exposed to the ravages of time, why not display them in a museum where they can be conserved while at the same time, tell their story to the word?’ Hadjitofi explained, adding that she would like for the museum to be in the Netherlands, the country which has offered her refuge, when she was forced to leave her home in Famagusta during the Turkish occupation of Cyprus in 1974.

View also video – a discussion on ‘Art Trafficking and Restitution’ at the Peace Palace, Lessons learned from Cyprus and Afghanistan http://walkoftruth.com/art-trafficking-and-restitution-the-video/