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Recent restitution cases of cultural objects using the 1970 Convention

The 1970 UNESCO Convention and the laws which are subsequent to its implementation at the national level are useful for the National Authorities of the State Parties, that would like to return one or several cultural objects to another country.


Phoenician pendant © Institut canadien de conservation

Canada - Lebanon, July 2015
The Government of Canada officially handed over a Phoenician artifact - a pendant dating back from approximately 600 BC. The artifact was returned to Lebanon in conformity with the 1970 UNESCO Convention.

This is the 20th return of a cultural object by Canada to another State Party to the Convention.

See also: Returns to Country of Origin by Canada since 1997


Ambassador of Egypt to Germany, Dr. Higazy, and the German Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office, Prof. Dr. Böhmer, during the handover ceremony © photothek

Germany - Egypt, April 2014
On 30 April 2014 Germany returned three antique Egyptian objects – a stela, an obelisk and a shrine – to Egypt. Coming from Switzerland the illegally exported objects had been confiscated by German custom investigators at the border checkpoint. A court in Freiburg decided their return to Egypt.

Masque de la Gorgone

Tunisia - Algeria, April 2014
In April 2014, the Algerian and Tunisian authorities signed an agreement for the restitution of the Mask of Gorgon, a rare archaeological object made of 320 kilograms of marble which was stolen from the site of Hippo Regius, Annaba (in Algeria) in 1996 and recovered in Tunisia.
During the restitution ceremony, the archaeological piece was exhibited at the Carthage National Museum. On 13 April 2014 the mask returned to Algeria and is currently exhibited at the National Museum of Antiquities in Algiers.


© van Hasz, Bavarian State Office of Criminal Investigation

July 2013: Germany to Cyprus
In July 2013, Germany returned some 170 frescoes, mosaics and icons to Cyprus.  They had been stolen from churches in Cyprus and were seized by the German authorities in 1997. A Court in Munich had given the go-ahead for their return to Cyprus after it issued a final ruling on the question of ownership.

The picture depicts a wall mosaic of the apse of the church of the Panagia Kanakaria in Lythrangomi, dating back from the 6th century.  

© Hesse State Ministry of Higher Education, Research and the Arts

May 2013: Germany to Bulgaria
In May 2013, Germany returned a votive offering from the 2nd/3rd century BC in the form of a Danubian Horseman silver plaque to Bulgaria.

The picture depicts the Consul Ivan Ilianvov Jordanov, from Bulgaria, and the German State Secretary, Ingmar Jung, during the handover ceremony.  


June 2013: Libya, Sabratha
In March 2013, two statue heads from the classical museum of the archaeological site of Sabratha, inscribed on the World Heritage List (1982), were looted and the statues damaged.

On 7 June 2013, the police in coordination with the 1st Infantry Battalion Libya Shield arrested a network of smugglers indicted in the robbery of two heads of statues from the Sabratha Museum.

Seahorse © Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey

March 2013: Germany to Turkey
Germany has returned a golden brooch “seahorse with wings” to Turkey. The brooch had been stolen from a museum in Usak, Turkey, in 2005 and was seized by German authorities in 2012. After Turkey had been informed via Interpol as well as by the German Foreign Office, the brooch was handed over to Turkish representatives on March 5, 2013 on the basis of the German Code of Criminal Procedure.
Federal Foreign Office, press release 7 March 2013


Australia - Peru and Jordan, September 2011

The Australian Government officially returned precious cultural antiquities to the Peruvian and Jordanian governments. The objects were returned under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986. Under the Act, cultural assets which have been illegally exported from their country of origin are returned home.

Australian Government's website

Canada - Bulgaria, June 2011

The Government of Canada returned to the Republic of Bulgaria 21,000 coins, pieces of jewellery, and other objects that were illegally imported to Canada and seized by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. 

Address by Ms Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of the Ceremony to handover trafficked cultural property from Canada to Bulgaria

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