Return or Restitution Cases

The intergovernmental Committee, ICPRCP, seeks ways and means of facilitating bilateral negotiations, promoting bilateral and multilateral cooperation, with a view to the restitution or return of cultural property, as well as fostering public information campaigns on the issue, and promoting exchanges of cultural property.

This intergovernmental body has an advisory role, and its recommendations concerning States' disputes are not legally binding.

Successful cases under the aegis of the ICPRCP

2011: Germany - Turkey

© bpk / Vorderasiatisches Museum, SMB / Olaf M.Teßmer

Shortly following the recommendation made during the sixteenth session of the ICPRCP in September 2010, the UNESCO Secretariat was informed in May 2011, that Turkey and Germany had reached an agreement on the case of the Sphinx, and a memorandum of understanding was signed, ensuring the return of the Boğazköy Sphinx to Turkey. The case had initially been presented to the ICPRCP in 1987 and led to the adoption of a recommendation: Recommendation No.2, which invited Germany and Turkey to hold comprehensive bilateral negotiations as soon as possible with a view to bringing this issue to a mutually acceptable solution.

2010: Switzerland – United Republic of Tanzania

Makondé Mask © ICOM

On 10 May 2010 in Paris, the restitution ceremony of the Makondé Mark to the United Republic of Tanzania took place under the aegis of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and in the presence of UNESCO. Since 2006, the ICPRCP the Swiss authorities, ICOM and the UNESCO Secretariat had maintained discussions with the concerned parties in this case: the United Republic of Tanzania and the Barbier-Mueller Museum in Geneva, until the parties reached a bilateral agreement in 2010. 

1988: USA - Thailand
The United States of America returned the Phra Narai lintel to Thailand following mediation facilitated by the ICPRCP.

1987: Former German Democratic Republic - Turkey
The former German Democratic Republic returned the 7,000 Bogazköy cuneiform tablets to Turkey. The case was resolved by direct return.

1986: USA - Jordan
Within the framework of an exchange, and following a request submitted by Jordan in 1983 to the ICPRCP, the Cincinnati Art Museum (USA) and the Department of Antiquities of Amman (Jordan) decided, in 1986, to jointly exchange moulds of the respective parts of the sandstone panel of Tyche with the zodiac in their possession, in order to be able to present the work in its entirety. This case was resolved following mediation.

1983: Italy - Ecuador
Italy returned over 12,000 pre-Columbian objects to Ecuador following the resolution of a seven-year litigation process. The moral support expressed by the ICPRCP was recognized by the Ecuadorian authorities as a significant factor in the success of this case.

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