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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 18 October 2014
SATURDAY 18 OCTOBER 2014 3 AUSTRALIA Two Australians lead fight for Parthenon Marbles' return International lawyer Geoffrey Robertson and David Hill might be Greece's best shot at getting the Parthenon Marbles back The group are taken on a guided tour of the Acropolis Museum. PHOTO: AP/YORGOS K ARAHALIS, POOL. HELEN VELISSARIS It has taken two influential Australians to make the case for the return of the Parthe- non Marbles to Greece the best it's ever looked. International human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson and the president of the In- ternational Association for the Reunification of the Par- thenon Sculptures, David Hill, are two of the leading members of a four group con- tingent in Greece this week, giving Greeks hope that they will one day see the return of their cultural artefacts. Greece will be taking on Robertson's counsel like gos- pel, as he has already suc- cessfully argued the return of artefacts to their country of origin and has written exten- sively about the topic, some- thing he's quite passionate about. In 2007, he successfully represented the Australian government and the Tasma- nian Aboriginal Centre and was able to stop the testing of aboriginal remains housed at the Natural History Mu- seum in London, and secured the return of the remains to Australia. The Natural History Mu- seum was going to drill into bones and teeth to ex- tract DNA and make plaster casts of the skeletal remains, housed at the museum since the early 1900s. Robertson has long been a campaigner for the return of cultural artefacts, and wrote in his book, Crimes Against Humanity, that "unique" works that were the "living symbol of history and culture" need to be housed in their country of origin. "There is considerable sup- port for the emergence of an international rule requiring the return of cultural treas- ures of great national signifi- cance," he said. He believes there should be international treaties that grant countries a 'right to cul- ture'. But he feels that museums shouldn't be asked to re- move all their artefacts, only unique cases like the marbles. "Our aim is not to empty the museums but the Parthenon Sculptures are a unique case," he said this week. Fellow Aussie David Hill has been gathering support from the international com- munity to keep the pressure on the British for more than 15 years, and knows every excuse, every plea both sides have used. He understands the conflict better than most, and was asked by the Greek govern- ment to assemble a group of international lawyers to brief the Greek side on what their options are. Alongside Robertson, Hill has travelled to Greece with Professor Normal Palmer and international lawyer, and newly married, Amal Clooney (nee Alamuddin). This week the group of four met with Greek Prime Min- ister Antonis Samaras and Culture Minister Kostas Ta- soulas. Mr Tasoulas confirmed that the Greek government has not yet agreed to "go to trial" to see the return of the mar- bles, and said the country will "exhaust the procedure with UNESCO" before it considers its next options. "Greece will weigh all the factors and awaits a response from Britain," Mr Tasoulas said. UNESCO agreed to mediate the talks for both countries in 2013, but is still waiting for the British to respond. They have placed an ultima- tum and given the British six months to reply. Mr Hill praised the bravery of the Greek government for keeping the issue alive, and reiterated that he would not rest until the sculptures were returned. "I want to give a big thank you to Antonis Samaras, who has taken this matter much further forward than at any time in the past." For decades the British have argued that the Greeks had no way to look after the ar- tefacts properly. In 2009, Greece built a state of the art Acropolis Museum to house the friezes and 17 statues the British Museum still holds. The excuse simply doesn't stick anymore. The trio of lawyers, com- ing from the London-based Doughty Street Chambers, toured the Acropolis Museum on Wednesday and saw the purpose-built space marked for the missing marbles. Robertson argued that the marbles are of global value and need to be in the one place to be properly appre- ciated. "The Marbles are important for all the world," he said. "The fact that these sculp- tures are in two separate plac- es, with 60 per cent in Greece and 40 per cent in Britain, is a terrible barbarity. If they are reunited, all the world will have the opportunity to see the start of civilisation." Seeing the split first hand, Mrs Clooney says Greece's case is a compelling one. "A horseman has his head in Athens and his body in Lon- don. The Greek god Posei- don has his torso separated between Greece and the UK," she said. "This means nobody can cel- ebrate the Marbles united in the place that they come from." As the centre of attention af- ter her high profile marriage to American actor George Clooney, Mrs Clooney has given the issue much needed international attention. If the issue gets to the inter- national courts, Greece will have a strong side, led by two influential Australians. L-R: Lawyers Geoffrey Robertson, Amal Clooney and Norman Palmer in Athens. PHOTO: AP/PETROS GIANNAKOURIS.
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