Unidroit Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects (1995)


The Unidroit Convention addresses the problem of theft and the illicit trade of cultural property. The document defines nature of the objects covered and includes provisions for the restitution of stolen property. The Convention also calls for the return of illegally exported cultural objects and outlines the circumstances under which such property shall be ordered returned. Requests for returns shall be brought within three years of the State learning of the location and/or identity of the possessor of the stolen or illegally exported object or within fifty years of the actual excavation. The Convention calls for fair and reasonable compensation to be paid where the possessor of stolen or illegally exported cultural property can show ignorance of the crime and demonstrate due diligence at the time of the purchase. Wherever possible, payment should be sought from the party who illegally transferred the property. With the agreement of the State requesting return, the possessor can also choose to retain the object instead of compensation. The Convention includes a special provision with regard to the return of cultural property of tribal and indigenous groups; the 50-year limit does not apply to objects that were made by tribal members or are used for traditional or ritual purposes by the community.