Published 8 January 2020
International disputes over cultural property seem to be on the increase. The unfortunate increase in armed conflicts in areas which are rich in cultural heritage provide fertile ground for plunder and pillaging. Later, in peacetime, this may prove instrumental in giving rise to international disputes over stolen and trafficked pieces of cultural property. At the same time, a greater number of disputes in the field may also be taken as a positive sign; namely, as an indicator of successful criminal investigations leading to new discoveries of artworks stolen in the past and illegally exported. Such discoveries are often the outcome of enhanced international cooperation between domestic investigation agencies. This paper gives an introduction on the methods used to settle international cultural property disputes.
This paper is organised in five sections with some concluding remarks. The first section illustrates briefly the generally recognised means of dispute settlement under international law and at the level of different national jurisdictions. The second section covers the issue of the scope of the subject matter of the kind of disputes in question, with special regard to the concept of "cultural property". The third section considers possible combinations of disputing parties according to their public or private legal personality. The fourth section refers to the highly diversified legal frameworks that provide the grounds upon which any given cultural property dispute may be addressed. The fifth section provides examples of how the international and domestic legal means of dispute settlement can operate concretely.
Lecture delivered on 25 October 2019 in Florence at the conference "Cultural Property: What Means for the Settlement of International Disputes?" organized by the Florence Chamber of Commerce and the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Videos of this and other presentations from the FIMC - Cultural property: what means for the settlement of international disputes? (2019) are available in the TDM/OGEMID Audiovisual library here.