Between justice and legal closure. Looted art claims and the passage of time

Activity: Lecture / PresentationAcademic


What is the role of law when confronted with looted art claims originating in a period of extreme injustice? In this paper it is argued that in looted art cases the contribution of legal institutions is important, but limited. Moreover, the most valuable things which legal institutions can offer vary according to particular social, historical and political circumstances and the passage of time.

In a context of forgetting and denial of what has happened in the past, offering legal access is very important – calling against prevailing statutes of limitation which reinforce the urge to forget.

In a context of collective remembering of the injustice of the past, it is important that legal institutions are prepared to organise legal closure, thus enabling parties to settle their legal disputes in a legally binding and timely fashion. When there is an urge to remember and to 'never forget' the injustice of the past, it is important that legal institutions and legal practitioners acknowledge that legal solutions cannot be perfect from a viewpoint of perfect justice but still deserve acceptance and respect.

Finally, in a context of reconciliation as a way to deal with the unjust past, law’s principal contribution consists in offering (international and national) general legal frameworks which enable and stimulate parties to work out binding solutions on a more voluntary basis. These legal frameworks partially relieve the parties from their autonomous efforts to find particular (ad hoc) solutions in each and every particular case. A general legal framework in a reconciliatory context will help to find solutions within a broader perspective, not only with regard to the past, but also with an eye to the future.
Period27 Nov 2012
Event titleInternational Symposium: Fair and Just Solutions? Alternatives to litigation in Nazi-looted art disputes: staus quo and new developments
Event typeConference