"To combat international trafficking in cultural property is to promote due respect for cultural property and for those who are its rightful depositeries."
Address by Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, 12 June 2007
I- Historic case studies of return and restitution under the aegis of the Intergovernmental Committee
The Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation has assisted in several successful cases of restitution:
Another case is suspended (between Iran and Belgium about archaeological objects from the Necropolis of Khurvin).Two other cases are still pending (regarding the Parthenon marbles, involving Greece and United Kingdom,the issue of the sphinx of Bogazköy between Turkey and Germany).
II- Recent examples of successful operations of cultural property restitutions
Syria has returned to Iraq around 700 pieces of antiquities, including gold coins and jewellery, which were stolen in the aftermath of the US intervention.
France has returned to Burkina Faso 262 stolen archaeological items discovered at the end of 2007 by French customs officers in the northern French port of Rouen. These items, stolen by a French couple, include: 231 fragments of pottery, 8 complete potteries, 17 stone objects and 6 bronze objects dating back to between 1,000 BC and 1,300 BC.
In adherence with the 1970 UNESCO Convention, the Chinese Government claimed the return of the 156 cultural relics in question through the local Danish court. The relics date back to between the Xia Dynasty (2,000 BC) and the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The restitution of these objects demonstrates the resolve of the Chinese Government to recover objects that were smuggled out of the country.
Two marble statues representative Artemisia and Apollo were returned to the Museum of Buthrote where they had been stolen in the 1990s.
The U.S. Homeland Security authorities agreed to the restitution of the marble bust of a Roman Emperor that was stolen, as well as eight other archaeological objects, from the Skikda Museum (Algeria) in 1996.
The U.S. District Court in Rhode Island settled in favour of Concordia University, McGill University of Montreal and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in their case against the baroness von Morsey Pickard. The return of the "Girl from the Sabine Mountains", by Winterhalter, acquired by Morsey Pickard’s step-father in 1937 during the forced sale of the collection of the Jewish gallery owner Max Stern, is a significant decision in the research for the possessions of the Jews spoiled by the IIIth Reich.
94 objects (figurines, seals, tools and phials) from the Neolithic period that were stolen in 1985 from Larissa (Greece) were returned to Greece from Germany.
After ten years of negotiation, an agreement made between the Peruvian State and the Department of Archaeology of Yale University allowed for the return of more than 350 objects in stone, metal and ceramic and thousands of artefacts.
Ceramics sculptures, objects made from organic material, and a funeral mask made of copper returned to Peru. The success of the repatriation is the result of the close collaboration and coordination between the National Institute of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through the Peruvian Consulate in Hamburg and the Sub-Secretariat of Cultural Policy in Foreign Countries. See more
In a protocol signed between the Getty Museum Director and the Italian Minister of Cultural Property, the Getty undertook to return to Italy the Morgantina Venus and 39 other valuable archaeological items (vases, amphoras, fragments of fresco etc.) of illicit origin.
A marble trunk from Gortyne stolen in Crete in 1991, which was featured on the INTERPOL’s Database of Stolen Works of Art, was returned to Greece from Switzerland.
Italy agreed to return 96 antiques to Pakistan. The vases, coins, and plates etc., dating from 3.300 to 1.800 B.C., had been obtained through illicit trafficking.
Two wooden statues, known as vigango, which were on display at the State of Illinois Museum and at the University of Hampton Museum, were returned to the Kenyan village where they were stolen in 1985.
Italy agreed to return a white marble statue in its possession for near century to Libya, who was requested it since 1989.
Some 1,400 Afghan ethnographic and archaeological objects, preserved since 1999 at the Afghanistan Museum-in-Exile (Bubendorf, Switzerland) under the aegis of UNESCO, were repatriated to the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul on 16 March 2007. See the Press Release and the Photo Gallery.
The Getty agreed to return a gold wreath and a marble statue of a kore (a standing young woman). In August 2006, following an amicable agreement, the Getty also returned a sixth century BC Thasian relief and a fourth century BC Boeotian stele to Greece. In response to accusations against its acquisition policy, the Getty announced a stricter policy with guidelines for bringing the Institution’s procedures into line with the principles of the 1970 UNESCO Convention.
The Boston Museum of Fine Arts reached an amicable agreement with Italy over the return of 13 items, which included a marble statue of the Empress Sabina, dating from 136 AD, and some ancient vases.
Through an amicable consensus, the University of Heidelberg (Germany) returned a small piece of marble portraying a man’s foot to the Greek Ministry of Culture. This is the first fragment from the Parthenon sculptures to return to Greece since European collectors removed large sections from the building some 200 years ago.
Reversing its long-standing position, the Met decided to return a 2,500-year-old Greek vase that was considered to be one of the world’s finest. This antique crater, made by the Greek painter Euphronios, was returned to Italy in January 2008.