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Athenians’ association sues Britain for Parthenon Sculptures

A private citizen’s group called the “Athenians’ Association” said on Thursday they filed a lawsuit at the European Court of Human Rights against the United Kingdom over the removal of the Parthenon Marbles by Lord Elgin in the 19th century, the association said in a press conference in Plaka on Thursday.

Athenians’ association sues Britain for Parthenon Sculptures
Visitors look at the Parthenon Sculptures at the British Museum
 in London [Credit: EPA]
The association, which opened in 1895 and among whose aims is to research the history of Athens and help preserve of its cultural monuments, said the decision was taken after its board was informed about Britain’s refusal to participate in a mediation procedure, as part of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Goods in the Country of Origin.

“The reason we disclose our action today is because not only was the suit not rejected [by the Court], but it was officially lodged and recently the Court requested clarifications, which presages that it will reach the courtroom,” the member of the association’s board, Stratis Stratigis said at the press conference.

Stratigis has been entrusted with monitoring the legal aspect of the suit, and is also responsible for coordinating the actions and contacts that will be needed in Greece and abroad.

He said the Athens Association has been following the issue closely for years and when it realized in March 2015 that Britain had rejected even its participation in the mediation procedure, it decided it was an opportunity to appeal before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg as a private association, independently from the State.

Stratigis also clarified that this move by the association does not affect in any way Greece’s right to sue when it chooses at a national or international court.

“Besides, the issue of recovering architectural elements recognized by UNESCO World Heritage monuments which have been stolen is ongoing,” he said. “It is therefore in the country’s interest to keep the issue alive in international public opinion and periodically update on the issue with appropriate actions,” he added.

According to the association’s press release which followed the press conference, its founding members comprised of descendants of the Athenians who stood up against the destruction of the Parthenon by Lord Elgin. It also said that one of the very first actions undertaken by the Association was an event organised in 1896 to commemorate the liberation of the Acropolis from the Ottoman Turks.

During the event, the association’s deputy chairman, Professor Theodossios Venizelos (1821-1900) said the Parthenon was “a place of daily worship, the holy of holies, a life good for our ancestors and that the Athenians strongly protested against the despoilment of the Acropolis’ extant statues by Elgin.”

Source: ANA-MPA [February 19, 2016]

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