Recent restitution cases of cultural objects using the 1970 Convention

The 1970 UNESCO Convention and the laws which are subsequent to its implementation at the national level are useful for the National Authorities of the State Parties, that would like to return one or several cultural objects to another country.


© van Hasz, Bavarian State Office of Criminal Investigation

July 2013: Germany to Cyprus
In July 2013, Germany returned some 170 frescoes, mosaics and icons to Cyprus.  They had been stolen from churches in Cyprus and were seized by the German authorities in 1997. A Court in Munich had given the go-ahead for their return to Cyprus after it issued a final ruling on the question of ownership.

The picture depicts a wall mosaic of the apse of the church of the Panagia Kanakaria in Lythrangomi, dating back from the 6th century.  

© Hesse State Ministry of Higher Education, Research and the Arts

May 2013: Germany to Bulgaria
In May 2013, Germany returned a votive offering from the 2nd/3rd century BC in the form of a Danubian Horseman silver plaque to Bulgaria.

The picture depicts the Consul Ivan Ilianvov Jordanov, from Bulgaria, and the German State Secretary, Ingmar Jung, during the handover ceremony.  


June 2013: Libya, Sabratha
In March 2013, two statue heads from the classical museum of the archaeological site of Sabratha, inscribed on the World Heritage List (1982), were looted and the statues damaged.

On 7 June 2013, the police in coordination with the 1st Infantry Battalion Libya Shield arrested a network of smugglers indicted in the robbery of two heads of statues from the Sabratha Museum.

Seahorse © Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey

March 2013: Germany to Turkey
Germany has returned a golden brooch “seahorse with wings” to Turkey. The brooch had been stolen from a museum in Usak, Turkey, in 2005 and was seized by German authorities in 2012. After Turkey had been informed via Interpol as well as by the German Foreign Office, the brooch was handed over to Turkish representatives on March 5, 2013 on the basis of the German Code of Criminal Procedure.
Federal Foreign Office, press release 7 March 2013


Australia - Peru and Jordan, September 2011

The Australian Government officially returned precious cultural antiquities to the Peruvian and Jordanian governments. The objects were returned under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986. Under the Act, cultural assets which have been illegally exported from their country of origin are returned home.

Australian Government's website

Canada - Bulgaria, June 2011

The Government of Canada returned to the Republic of Bulgaria 21,000 coins, pieces of jewellery, and other objects that were illegally imported to Canada and seized by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. 

Address by Ms Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of the Ceremony to handover trafficked cultural property from Canada to Bulgaria

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