» Irina Bokova celebrates the restitution of a Roman sarcophagus by Switzerland to Turkey
19.06.2017 - ODG

Irina Bokova celebrates the restitution of a Roman sarcophagus by Switzerland to Turkey


On 19 June 2017, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, attended the ceremony of restitution of an illicitly trafficked Roman Sarcophagus to Turkey. The sarcophagus was discovered in 2010 by the Swiss customs in a warehouse of the Ports francs of Geneva. After 7 years of investigation, the sarcophagus is now returned to Turkey, its country of origin.

The ceremony took place at the University of Geneva, in the presence of the Director of the Geneva Museum, Mr Jean-Ynes Marin, the Rector of the University of Geneva, Mr Yves Flueckiger, State Councilor of Geneva, Mr Pierre Maudet and the Minister of Culture of Turkey, H.E. Professor Nabi Avci.

The Director-General highlighted in this context the importance and effectiveness of UNESCO’s 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

"This Convention offers a strong legal basis and this event shows it gives results. I hope it will encourage Member States and all actors to ratify the Convention and strengthen their tools and legislation," said the Director-General.

“Illicit trafficking is a cultural and social scandal that deprives people of their history, their past, and therefore their future,” she added. 

“The example of international cooperation between Turkey and Switzerland in this restitution shows also the great power of cultural diplomacy in building bridges,” She continued.

The Minister of Culture of Turkey, H.E. Professor Nabi Avci, thanked the Swiss Government for their cooperation and added: "Turkey will make every effort to help strengthen the UNESCO 1970 Convention, which is very important to halt illicit trafficking."

The exhibition offers insight into the art of the ancient city of Perge, known today for its theater, columns and necropolis. Carved in the 2nd century AD, the sarcophagus adorned with the twelve works of Hercules and weighs nearly three tons.

On the same day, the Director-General met in a bilateral meeting with his Excellency Mr Nabi Avci, who renewed his commitment to work with UNESCO to fight illicit trafficking of cultural goods. She commended the Minister for his continuous support to UNESCO’s action.

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