Chapter 2: Restitution: Complexities and opportunities introduced by private international law
Individuals, institutions, states and government authorities, communities, minorities and groups may claim or oppose restitution of an object which they would assert belongs to cultural heritage. The general public may also get involved because of their interest in museum displays. On the supposition that different role occupants agree that an object constitutes part of cultural heritage, they may differ about whose cultural heritage it is. Their interests may overlap. States may institute action on the basis of statutory measures designed to safeguard public and private rights in respect of cultural objects. It has to be determined which actors have the capacity to initiate the restitution claim, and to whom items in public collections may be returned. Collectors and museums may claim an individual item based on prior ownership or may sue in the tort of conversion if the object can be located; the claim may be for the alleged wrongful retention of the object in question or it may follow a wrong that caused damage or destruction. A distinction between claims at law or in equity may apply. Special laws may be necessary to override the bar of inalienability that had been set up by law. Policy or morals may offer parties more than solutions that are based on law.
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