by Patrick J. O’Keefe
(2017) This book provides not only an article-by-article commentary on the provisions of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, but also a comprehensive analysis of the historical background that led to the adoption of the Convention and of the ways in which it is implemented around the world. It also includes the texts of other significant legal instruments which seek to provide international protection for cultural objects.
Theft and illicit traffic in objects of cultural heritage cause major problems for protection and conservation. This is so whether they come from archaeological sites, museum collections, private houses or elsewhere. However, how to deal with these problems is difficult, particularly when the objects have been transported from one country to another. There are practical difficulties such as identification and who pays for the investigative work, prosecution and return of the objects. Overlaying all are the legal standards used to determine who the owner is and whether the objects should be returned. Here events before and after the year 1970 are crucial.
When UNESCO adopted the Convention in 1970 it was a truly significant event in the protection of cultural objects. This book studies the developments which led to its creation, and how it has been interpreted and implemented. The birth of the Convention led to a range of other instruments and techniques to protect cultural objects. Some have been successful, some not so. These later instruments are studied here with suggestions for improvement. The final chapter looks to the issue of return; the mechanics of which received little attention in 1970.
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