Student Note on the Retroactivity of the 1970 Convention

Katarzyna Januszkiewicz has placed a student note in the Brooklyn Journal of International Law examining the “Retroactivity in the 1970 UNESCO Convention: Cases of the United States and Australia“.

From the Introduction:

This Note explores the domestic application of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization Convention on the Means of prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property of 1970 (“UNESCO Convention” or “Convention”) by both the United States and Australia. The currently growing trend of returning looted artifacts to their countries of origin highlights the need for stricter law enforcement procedures and a possible reevaluation of the U.S. policy of the nonretroactive application of the UNESCO Convention, as applied to domestic law. As a major market country, the United States can lead the way in encouraging repatriation and in establishing better relations with source countries that do not have the resources to fight for their lost heritage on their own.

The Note argues that the non-retroactive features of the Convention lead to problems with it, which I’d argue is not really a major flaw of the Convention. Overall its a useful student note, but one that could have benefited from some editing by someone more familiar with the Convention and the literature examining it. Law students, if you are writing on cultural heritage, please get in touch. I’m happy to read drafts and offer suggestions on your writing and arguments.

1 thought on “Student Note on the Retroactivity of the 1970 Convention”

  1. It’s irresponsible for those in the academic, legal, scholarly and archaeological communities to continue to blatantly ignore the reality that most if not all source countries enjoy the double standard that prevails due to the U.S. quasi-ignorance to the fact that source countries market and sell the same items they law claim for: they disregard the portion of the CPIA tgat actually requires them to clean up their internal problems in terms of identifying and protecting archaeological sites and increase internal enforcement against organized looters.

    My second point to make is the fact that source countries rich in archaeological material sat for the past few thousand years staring at yet vastly ignoring their cultural objects. National
    Ownership laws for all source countries weren’t passed until the 20th century at best. And even those laws are weak. Meanwhile the business of trade
    In antiquity existed for thousands of years. Seeking retroactivity only benefits the collecting community because the legal burden to claim such items rest with the source country. Fat chance of their ability to produce provenience and proof of ownership.

    I appreciate this discussion if the agenda is bring forth the real quagmire of dealing with the “orphaned”‘objects I’m alll public and private collections. Now that’s worth collaborating on a solution!

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