Last week, the Swiss Federal Office of Culture (‘SFOC’) handed over 32 antiquities to the Egyptian Embassy in Switzerland. The objects date from the Pharaonic and Roman period and, according to the SFOC, four of them are of “exceptional rarity, cultural value, and aesthetic quality”. These include the head of a pharaoh and a fragmented stela depicting the patron goddess Thebes, both from the time of the New Kingdom (c. 1500 – 1000 BC) as well as two fragmented stelas depicting cultic scenes from the Roman period (c. 753 BC – 476 AD). The police of the Canton of Zurich had seized the antiquities in the course of a criminal investigation.
All 32 antiquities were repatriated during a ceremony marking the tenth anniversary of the Federal Act on the International Transfer of Cultural Property, the so-called Cultural Property Transfer Act (‘CPTA’). The CPTA, which came into force on 1st June 2005, implemented the 1970 UNESCO Convention into Swiss law. It aims to prevent the theft, looting, and illicit import and export of cultural property (see Article 1 para. 2 CPTA).
On 14th April 2010, Switzerland and Egypt concluded a bilateral agreement on the import and repatriation of cultural property in accordance with Article 7 CPTA. This agreement contains provisions governing the import of cultural property into one of the contracting parties. According to Article 3, the import and transit of artefacts which have been illegally exported from one of the contracting parties is prohibited. In Arts 4-6, the agreement governs the repatriation of such illegally imported cultural objects. Finally, the agreement promotes the mutual exchange of information (see Articles 7-9). Switzerland has concluded similar agreements with Italy, Peru, Greece, Columbia, Cyprus and China.
Sources: Press Release of the SFOC dated 1st June 2015.