Introduction era. The problems that have since

Introduction

Egypt
is not the only country that has continued to raise concern over stolen cultural
artefacts that were originally the property of the government. The role of
international law in such scenarios is to bring forward a decorum on the issues
affecting member states on issues that could possibly lead to conflict. Art is
a concern for most countries and protecting culture and artefacts has been a
problem since the Ottoman art era. The problems that have since arisen is that
most of the African countries have lost most of their artefacts to museums in
foreign countries. The role of international law in mitigating these issues is
to ensure that each government is able to claim its ownership and demand that
artefacts be repatriated.

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The Problem

The
problem of stolen or lost artefacts is not new to the international community.
In most cases, the problem has been overruled in cases where it is difficult to
prove the country of origin. The international law on cultural protection is
yet to make its mark to ensure that each government gets its share of cultural
heritage and objects.

The
historical problem started way before the 21st century. According to
the Egyptian authorities the problem started in ancient times. A case example
is the number of more obelisks in Rome than those that are available in Egypt. After
the publication of the Napoleonic Expedition in 1799, there was a Western
fascination with the artistic heritage of Egypt. This led to a mass collection
of Egyptian Antiquities and some are still not within the government’s
possession to date.

The
1850s saw the introduction of an Antiquities service that was able to start
checking the flow of artefacts out of the country. This led to a sharp fall in
the number of Egyptian artefacts and objects out of the country. The
introduction of local legislation named the Egyptian Antiquities Laws have made
it more stringent to smuggle any artefacts out of the country.1

 

Secondly, the
legislation states that any artefact excavated in Egypt must remain to be a
property of the government unless there is sale and change of ownership through
the proper channels.

Over
the years the local laws have failed to control the illegal trade of Egyptian
artefacts. Some of the artefacts are still found in foreign countries and it
has become a problem for the government. The international laws are soon taking
effect and aiding the war against the illegal acquisition of Egyptian
artefacts. People who seek to exploit the Egyptian heritage have found illegal
ways of moving the artefacts out of the country and out of the continent. This
outcry has led to the questions on whether Egypt should reclaim all its
artefacts from the hundreds of museums across the world. This move would allow
the government to reacquire stolen artifacts and reinstate the cultural and
artistic heritage of the Egyptian people.

International Law Application

The
notion that cultural heritage is an “international public good” is evident in
the preamble of the 1954 Hague convention for the protection of cultural
Property. The international bodies have since developed numerous laws that seek
to curb the theft of cultural heritage. However, the people who are motivated
by the malicious intent to steal heritage and artefacts continue to act in
complete disregard for the set rules. The laws can only be effective for all
member states if the countries are willing to enforce them and give the
judicial bodies a chance to prosecute some of the cases already pending and in
the public domain. It takes goodwill to enforce the laws.

Egypt
has made the first attempt to ask for the return of its artefacts by virtue of
goodwill. Egypt is yet to invoke any international laws to regain what it
considers as its cultural heritage. According to Dr. Hawass has since used his
position to regain thousands of artifacts and mostly through goodwill and not
coercion. This has since been successful but with other countries or entities
unwilling to cooperate.2

 

 

Egypt
has an option of taking legal measures to regain what it has lost over the
decades. The artefacts need to be back in its original country to ensure that
each country can enjoy its heritage.

Examples of International Law

The
UNESCO convention for the safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in
France 2003 helped give the distinction between tangible and intangible goods.
The laws are such as the Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, the International
Covenant on civil and Political Rights of 1966 and Social and Cultural rights
of 1966.

The
UNESCO convention on the Safekeeping of the Underwater Cultural Heritage sought
to protect the underwater cultural treasures of any country. This includes the
sunken cities, shipwrecks, Artwork and Treasures. These conventions gave rise
to the laws that are enforced by arms of the international bodies such as
UNESCO and the International Criminal Courts.

The
Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court established four major areas
considered as international crimes. One is crimes against humanity, genocide,
war crimes and crimes of aggression. The Rome Statute is very clear on the
protection of cultural heritage under the article 8 deeming its destruction as
a clear act of war crime. These are some of the laws that Egypt can exploit in a
scenario where a certain country refuses to offer back the artifacts as agreed
through goodwill. Dr. Hawass understands that most things are achievable if
both parties are ready to dialogue and reach a compromise. Therefore, a legal
approach would be the final position that the country would take to recover the
lost artefacts in foreign countries.3

 

 

The
UNIDROIT convention on stolen or illegally exported cultural objects (Rome
1995). The convention resolved that all stolen cultural objects must be
returned directly through the national courts to ensure that the speed of
return is fast.

The
UNESCO convention on the means of prohibiting and preventing the Illicit
import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property is a treaty
agreed upon in Paris 1970. This is a treaty that is dedicated to the fight
against the illegal trade on cultural heritage. These are some of the avenues
that the Egyptian government can exploit to ensure that there is a positive
response from the UNESCO member states to return stolen heritage and objects.

The
UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed
Conflict. (1954 Hague Convention). This is the first major international treaty
that focuses on the whole world and the exclusive protection of a countries’
cultural heritage. The treaty is concerned with the safety of any countries’
heritage in the event of any armed conflict. It would be against. Some of the
objects covered are the works of art, books, archeological interests, sites,
scientific collections and monuments. All these items are protected under the
treaty.

The
Treaty on the protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic
Monuments also called the (Roerich Pact of Washington 1935) is important as it
outlines that no military necessity is more important than the culture of the
native people during any war or conflict. The treaty outlines that cultural
objects must be protected to ensure that each nation is covered under the
treaty.

Items that need to be returned

Some
of the items that the Egyptian government need back so badly are of significant
value to the heritage of the country. Egypt has persistently tried to reclaim
and get back its objects of cultural heritage through other channels rather
than the court system.4

This
has yielded results as in 2002, Egypt was able to reclaim over 5000 artifacts
when Hawass took over as the head of antiquities.

Egypt
has been seeking the Rosetta Stone which has been at a British Museum. The item
was of great significance to the Egyptians. It was a slab of basalt that had an
inscription that was the key to understanding the Egyptian hieroglyphics. The
item was taken from the Egyptians in 1799 and it has become a topic of debate
even as Egypt tries to get back its artefacts that are spread out all over the
world.5

            Another item that the Egyptian
government wants back is the bust of Nefertiti. The item is said to be at the
Berlin Egyptian Museum. The item is said to have been shipped out of Egypt
using fraudulent means and wants it back. This position means that the item was
not legally moved to Berlin as the paperwork is in question.

Current Problems

Egypt
continues to press on for its artefacts to be returned and not to be auctioned
off for purposes of profit in other nations. This has raised the outrage about
the sale of artefacts that are of great concern for the government. The
solution to the impasse is to exhaust all avenues of reason before taking the
matter to the judicial institutions for arbitration.6

The
challenge that Egypt might face with the implementation of international law
and treaties is the inability of the international prosecutions to follow up on
cases about theft or illegal acquisition of cultural heritage.

 

The issue is
that these committees and institutions are sometimes ineffective because of the
minimal need for direct confrontation of parties via the legal channels.

Most
countries have not taken their heritage seriously and it is the reason why
Egypt has got the support of about 20 nations to help push the agenda of
returning of lost artefacts to the original country that owned the items. The
problem is that enforcement of international standards by the museums and other
countries is a big problem. Enforcement of the treaties is the major concern as
countries continue to ignore the need to protect the cultural heritage of other
nations.With minimal consequences already seen for countries that have failed
to honor the treaties, there is a chance that more issues are likely to come up
in the near future.7

Conclusion

In
summary, some of the opposers of returning artefacts argue that the move will
open doors for more problems as most items of cultural heritage are spread out
in different nations. The opposers feel like it will be the beginning of
numerous conflict and more legal measures. Egypt has a right to claim its
heritage as it is wrong for the international communities to sit back and watch
as the treaties are ignored blatantly. Stealing of heritage is a huge concern
and the international law should be enforced with full force to avoid
situations where countries are in conflict almost a decade later. Egypt or any
other country has a right to claim its cultural heritage.