Alternative Dispute Resolution and the Restitution of Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Property

Kristin Hausler (LL.M. 2004)


The number of potential issues surrounding the custody of works of art seems endless. The resolution of such conflicts can basically take two forms: the dispossessed owner will try to recuperate his object, either through court litigation or through out-of-court settlement (generally refered to as alternative dispute resolution or ADR).

While commencing litigation may appear as the obvious way to defend one’s rights, the process also bears various disadvantages. For example, court proceedings can be long and expensive. In the area of cultural property, where antagonistic legal opinions co-exist, litigation has sometimes resulted in unsatisfactory outcomes.

So should the judicial system still be favoured by those involved in conflicts pertaining to the ownership of or right to possess works of art? Or are there alternative methods that should be considered? If so, would the potential advantages of such methods really outweigh those of litigation? Ultimately, could ADR be the panacea for disputes involving cultural objects?

These are roughly the questions that this thesis attempts to answer. The aim is to link two familiar areas of legal studies, namely ADR and cultural property, and analyse the potential benefits of their marriage.

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