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The papers collected in this volume represent the work of the Permanent Court of Arbitration s 7th International Law Seminar, The Resolution of Cultural Property Disputes, held at the Peace Palace in The Hague in the spring of 2003 and attended by world-renowned legal experts and professionals from art institutions.
The looting of the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad during the Second Gulf War is only the most recent example of the depredation of cultural property that can be part of the tragic human cost of war. Brazen pillage causes the world an irretrievable loss of significant information about our universal past. Given the magnitude of the problem, it is surprising how little international jurisprudence there is in this field. Furthermore, more than 50 years on, many Holocaust-era cases of looted or stolen art remain unresolved and continue to emerge. In this volume, several authors discuss the range of resources, such as internet databases, now available for art provenance research, especially for cases related to World War II.
Cultural property disputes raise complicated questions that enter into many spheres, including history, national and international law, and of course, the marketplace. Because of the wide variety of legal norms and the cross-border nature of most cultural property claims, complicated conflict of law issues inevitably arise.
As several of the authors in this volume note and examine from various angles, cultural property claims run up against differing and sometimes prohibitive limitation periods, evidentiary standards, not to mention competing claims of good faith acquisition of property. Several of the authors note that traditional legal norms are often incapable of addressing the special problems of cultural property and recommend the institution of special arbitral regimes equipped with unique substantive and procedural rules capable of handling such cases.