|Two marble statues from the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. |
Photograph: The Trustees of the British Museum
A Turkish challenge in the European court of human rights will be a test case for the repatriation of art from one nation to another [...] a dramatic move to reclaim sculptures that once adorned the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus [...] An Istanbul lawyer, Remzi Kazmaz, told the Observer that a lawsuit will be filed at the European court on 30 January and that 30 lawyers are acting on behalf of the town of Bodrum as well as district and provincial governors, the Turkish ministry of culture and other bodies [...]. Kazmaz said: "We thank the British authorities and the British Museum for accommodating and preserving our historical and cultural heritage for the last years. However, the time has come for these assets to be returned to their place of origin ... Preparations for formal requests are taking place now." [...] Gwendolen Morgan, a human rights lawyer with Bindmans LLP, suggested that "the most likely line of attack" will be a breach by the UK of article 1, 1st protocol of the European convention of human rights, which states: "Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions."The mausoleum was built in 350BC to mark the burial place of Mausolus, king of Caria. It was a 40-metre-high monument, crowned by a colossal four-horse chariot on a stepped pyramid (of which the head of one of the horses in in the BM). The structure is believed to have collapsed after a medieval earthquake. Some of its sculptures were taken by crusaders to their castle at Bodrum, from where they were recovered in 1846 by the British ambassador at Constantinople and presented to the British Museum. Others were retrieved in the 1850s during site excavations by the museum. In both cases the activities were carried out with the requisite documents issued by the Ottoman authorities (firmans) which granted permission for the excavation of the site and removal of the material from the site. A petition with 118,000 signatures has been organised and the Strasbourg court will be shown a documentary film on how Turkey lost its ancient treasure.
Dalya Alberge, 'Turkey turns to human rights law to reclaim British Museum sculptures' Guardian 8 December 2012.