European Court rejects Elgin Marbles claim

Posted on: August 1, 2016 by

We had earlier this year reported on a claim lodged at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg by an independent Athenian association seeking the return of the Parthenon Marbles. The claim of the Syllogos Ton Athinaion (or ‘Athenians’ Association’) has been rejected by the Court on admissibility grounds.

In a short ruling dated 23 June 2016 – no wonder the decision flew more or less under the radar in the UK! – the Court held that as an association, the Syllogos were unable to base themselves upon any rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (or its associated protocols) to have the Marbles returned to Greece. As such the Court found all claims inadmissible ratione materiae (in terms of subject matter). These claims related to the cultural rights of the Association and its members (Article 8 of the Convention), the right to the respect of its conscience (Article 9), the ability to access cultural information (Article 10), the denial of a remedy (Article 13) and the right to access the Parthenon monument in its entirety (Article 1 of the First Protocol to the Convention).

The Court also suggested the temporal challenges to such a claim, hinting that it may have rejected the claim on grounds that it related to an event (the removal of the Marbles from the Parthenon by Elgin’s men) that occurred some 150 years before the Convention came into being. However, the Court did not go quite so far, choosing instead to base its rejection on the material point.

There is a good review of the decision by George Vardas, who has a fairly optimistic view of the development, pointing out that in rejecting the claims of the Syllogos the Court was opening the door to a potential claim by the Greek Republic itself. This may be a case of reading between the lines. For the time being, the first ever court case to involve the famed Marbles has been nipped in the bud. Sadly, for some people.

But recall, there still is a Bill knocking at the UK Parliament’s door…