Handbook on the Law of Cultural Heritage and International Trade

Handbook on the Law of Cultural Heritage and International Trade

Research Handbooks on Globalisation and the Law series

Edited by James A.R. Nafziger and Robert Kirkwood Paterson

This Handbook offers a collection of original writings by leading scholars and practitioners in the exciting, rapidly developing field of cultural heritage law. The detailed essays are the product of a multi-year project of the Committee on Cultural Heritage Law of the International Law Association.

Chapter 22: Controls on the export of cultural objects and human rights

Kevin Chamberlain and Ana Vrdoljak

Subjects: law - academic, cultural heritage and art law, international economic law, trade law


Controls over the export of cultural objects have been largely, if not exclusively, driven by state interests. However, who identifies materials as culturally significant, determines how they are to be protected and preserved, and who is to have access to them. How competing interests in these are resolved is increasingly recognised as having a human rights dimension. The adoption of a holistic definition of cultural heritage in recent multilateral instruments has been accompanied by greater awareness of the relevance of human rights norms for its protection. This development reiterates the integral importance of movable heritage and the detrimental effects of the illicit trade in cultural objects. The cross-fertilisation between cultural heritage law and human rights law highlights again the often competing claims of various right-holders. Yet, oversight mechanisms of human rights instruments, including national reports and individual complaints, provide a broader scope for the articulation and evolution of jurisprudence relating to the protection of cultural heritage, including cultural objects, resolution of competing claims, and sanctions and remedies for breaches. The UN Independent Expert on Cultural Rights, Ms Farida Shaheed, noted recently that: [a]ccess to and enjoyment of cultural heritage as a human right is a necessary and complementary approach to the preservation/safeguard of cultural heritage.

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