Museum Security Network


The latest argument for detaining Nefertiti is clear evidence that the holders of the cultural property of others have no valid reason for depriving them of their cultural symbols.

It is established that there is no requirement in Municipal or International law that owners of stolen/looted objects or objects acquired under dubious circumstances must request, formally or informally, for their return before the holders of the objects can return them. It is sufficient that the current holders have been informed of the position of the legitimate owners for them to act. Indeed, United Nations and UNESCO resolutions, international conferences as well as the ICOM (International Council of Museums) Code of Ethics require the holders to take the initiative in negotiations for eventual return. In many cases, only the holders have full knowledge about the location and conditions of the objects. ICOM Code of Ethics provides in its paragraphs 6 as follows:

6.1 Co-operation
Museums should promote the sharing of knowledge, documentation and collections with museums and cultural organisations in the countries and communities of origin. The possibility of developing partnerships with museums in countries or areas that have lost a significant part of their heritage should be explored.

6.2 Return of Cultural Property
Museums should be prepared to initiate dialogues for the return of cultural property to a country or people of origin. This should be undertaken in an impartial manner, based on scientific, professional and humanitarian principles as well as applicable local, national and international legislation, in preference to action at a governmental or political level.

6.3 Restitution of Cultural Property
When a country or people of origin seeks the restitution of an object or specimen that can be demonstrated to have been exported or otherwise transferred in violation of the principles of international and national conventions, and shown to be part of that country’s or people’s cultural or natural heritage, the museum concerned should, if legally free to do so, take prompt and responsible steps to co-operate in its return

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