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Turkey uses Human Rights law in attempt to Reclaim Antiquities in Britain

December 8, 2012
Two marble statues from the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. Photograph: The Trustees of the British Museum

Two marble statues from the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. Photograph: The Trustees of the British Museum

Turkey, as noted previously, has gotten more aggressive in attempts to repatriate antiquities they claim were looted or illegally obtained.  Now, according to The Guardian, they’ve amped it up and plan to turn to the European court of human rights and sue for the return of works currently in the British Museum.  If this suit is ultimately successful, it would likely open up yet another round of repatriation demands.

According to the article:

Despite criticism of their own country’s human rights record, Turkish campaigners are turning to human rights law – a dramatic move to reclaim sculptures that once adorned the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, an ancient wonder along with sites such as the hanging gardens of Babylon and Egypt’s pyramids.

Greek sculptors in 350BC created a 40-metre-high monument, crowned by a colossal four-horse chariot on a stepped pyramid. A magnificent horse’s head is among sculptures acquired by the British Museum in the mid-19th century, which campaigners want returned to their original site – Bodrum in south-west Turkey.

An Istanbul lawyer, Remzi Kazmaz, told the Observer that a lawsuit will be filed at the European court on 30 January and that 30 lawyers are acting on behalf of the town of Bodrum as well as district and provincial governors, the Turkish ministry of culture and other bodies.

Kazmaz said: “We thank the British authorities and the British Museum for accommodating and preserving our historical and cultural heritage for the last years. However, the time has come for these assets to be returned to their place of origin … Preparations for formal requests are taking place now.”

Gwendolen Morgan, a human rights lawyer with Bindmans LLP, suggested that “the most likely line of attack” will be a breach by the UK of article 1, 1st protocol of the European convention of human rights, which states: “Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions.”

She said: “I suspect they’ll use the litigation to ramp up the moral pressure on the British government … So it’s quite a powerful campaigning tool … How this case will be interpreted by the European court of human rights will also be informed by the domestic law in force in the 1850s in the Ottoman empire when the mausoleum was taken by the British Museum.”

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