Russian state controlled Sputnik argues in an article a collection must be returned to the Crimea. It is at the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam. Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky told Sputnik ‘he did not consider possible the continuation of inter-museum relations with the Netherlands if the country does not return the collection of ancient Scythian gold to Crimea’. But Medinsky only gives threats, no arguments. My comment on the article:
This affair in the core is about the question whether the Crimea is occupied territory or not. The world community in majority thinks so and confirmed this in the non-binding UNGA resolution 68/262 which said the Russian Federation occupied Crimea in 2014 in an illegal way and held a flawed referendum. The Netherlands supported this resolution.
So, what the Culture Minister Medinsky of the Russian Federation says is too simple and too bluntly. He mixes cultural, legal and political arguments and tries to select them selectively.
The Netherlands is a functioning state of law and wants to connect justice, proportionality and good political relations with all countries. The Allard Pierson Museum and the Amsterdam University of which the museum is a part -and were the loans are kept- also want to act according to international law.
‘The Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict with Regulations for the Execution of the Convention 1954’ is accepted by the international museum organization ICOM as a starting point.
It says in article 5.1: ‘Any High Contracting Party in occupation of the whole or part of the territory of another High Contracting Party shall as far as possible support the competent national authorities of the occupied country in safeguarding and preserving its cultural property.’
So, the Allard Pierson Museum and the Amsterdam University face a dilemma. A Museum is not a political organisation, but in this matter it has to give a political interpretation of a politicized issue because of a war between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. A situation which did not exist when the loans were granted by the Ukrainian museums.
The norm is the interpretation of the guidelines of ICOM. The Allard Pierson Museum and the Amsterdam University have the obligation to follow the norms of their field, the musuem sector.
Because of the political conclusion in the UN it seems strongly this Dutch musuem has to play by the rules of ICOM. It has little room to set aside the guidelines of ICOM.
The political reality is that globally the majority of countries have the opinion that Crimea ihas been occupied illegally by the Russian Federation and the so called referendum was not legally valid.
Crimea is since 2014 occupied by a foreign power and the Allard Pierson Museum and the Amsterdam University can not act differently than not returning the loans to occupied territory. Because they have the obligation to safeguard and preserve them. Against their will and because of a political situation it plays no part in.
Whether they have to keep it in custody until Crimea is no longer occupied or that they have to send it back to Ukraine immediately, is a question that needs to be considered legally.