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International lawyers consulted by Greek government on Parthenon Marbles issue

George Clooney's new wife Amal Alamuddin might have stolen the limelight off the troop of four heading to Greece to help Greece's case to the Parthenon Marbles, but its coordinator, Australian David Hill is confident the publicity will help put more pressure on the British.

International lawyers consulted by Greek government on Parthenon Marbles issue
The Parthenon Sculptures are seen on display at the British Museum
in London on June 5, 2000 [Credit: Reuters]
Mr Hill has been in Greece for the past three weeks getting ready to meet with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, while working to assemble three famous international lawyers, Geoffrey Robertson, Amal Alamuddin and Professor Norman Palmer to work on a legal case to get the marbles back home.

As the president of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, Mr Hill has seen years of talks between the two countries end fruitlessly, despite the tries of large international bodies like UNESCO.

The meeting scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday will be the first time Greece will consider its legal options.

Mr Hill says it's in Greece's best interest to up the ante and address its legal rights.

"I don't think it has any alternative," Mr Hill told Greek reporters.

"I think Greece should now look at its legal entitlements and its legal rights and consider a legal claim."

Mr Hill was asked by Prime Minister Samaras to assemble a group of prominent international lawyers to advise the government of what its legal claim might be, resuming a plan Greece had in the works for years.

The former Papandreou government was set to do the same until the financial crisis stopped the talks.

International lawyers consulted by Greek government on Parthenon Marbles issue
Human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin Clooney (middle) with Geoffrey Robertson (left), 
head of Doughty Street Chambers, and David Hill, head of the International Committee
for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, on arrival at a hotel in Athens, 
Greece on Oct 13, 2014 [Credit: Reuters]
Amal Alamuddin was actually going to be legal counsel on the topic in 2011 before the meetings were cancelled.

Now, a team of three coincidentally British high-profile lawyers will front the case for Greece.

Mr Hill, himself a British born Australian child migrant says he chose the three for their expertise in the field, not for their profile.

"I think we've got, in those three people it's a repository of extraordinarily high calibre advice," he says.

"You'd be hard pressed to do better."

Greece has been reluctant in the past to start legal proceedings fearing it will look confrontational, but after 15 years of the same response from the British and trying everything in its arsenal to get them to the negotiating table, the government is out of patience.

If the case does reach litigation, it won't be the first of its kind Mr Hill says.

"All over the world there where there is dispute on cultural property people resort to having the matter rationally and fairly sorted out through the judicial process," he says.

"In fact a lot of people would say what took the Greeks so long to do this. It's not a precedent, it's far from it. It's very reasonable and sensible."

International lawyers consulted by Greek government on Parthenon Marbles issue
Tourists visit the Parthenon Temple at the Acropolis hill in Athens, 
Greece on Oct 12, 2014 [Credit: AFP]
After so many years, the British approach to the matter hasn't changed despite the growing international chorus of disapproval.

Surprisingly, British locals are very much in favour of returning the marbles to Greece. A poll in the Guardian newspaper saw 88 per cent of respondents want to see the marbles returned.

Sadly all three British prime ministers and the British Museum have been immovable on the issue.

In the meetings, Mr Hall and the contingent will also meet with Greece's deputy prime minster Evangelos Venizelos, the culture minister Konstantinos Tasoulas and director of the Acropolis Museum Dimitrios Pandermalis.

It's hoped the government can decide on its next steps to tackling the issue before it becomes too late.

As a true Philhellene, Mr Hill says the issue is still as important as ever.

"There aren't many situations where you come across a great wrong that can be righted. And here's one that can be," he says.

Married to a Greek woman, and with his 13-year-old son studying the language at Greek school, Mr Hill has never wavered from his campaign to have the marbles returned.

"Since I first saw the Parthenon marbles in Athens in the sculptures in the British museum I always been struck by the injustice," he says, "It is a great wrong to leave these statues and sculptures in Britain. They should be in Greece."

Author: Helen Velissaris | Source: Neos Kosmos [October 13, 2014]

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