Amsterdam museum must return Crimean art treasures to Ukraine, Supreme Court rules
The Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam must return the Crimean art treasures it has in its possession to the State of Ukraine and not to the Crimean Museums, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday. Hereby, the Supreme Court affirmed two previous rulings and ended a years-long dispute.
The Allard Pierson Museum borrowed archaeological objects and museum pieces from the Crimean Museums for an exhibition from February to August 2014. During that time, Russia invaded Crimea and annexed the territory, and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea seceded from Ukraine and joined the Russian Federation. The vote to secede took place weeks after Russia seized control of the area, and was considered illegitimate by many nations, think tanks, and political leaders. The United Nations, the European Union, and the Netherlands have not recognized the secession.
Both the Crimean Museums and the State of Ukraine demanded that the Allard Pierson Museum return the treasures to them, and the matter ended up in court. In December 2016, the court ruled that the museum should return the treasures to the State of Ukraine under the Heritage Act. In 2021, the Court of Appeals also ruled that the treasures should go to Ukraine, but based on the Museums Act, not the Heritage Act.
The Crimean Museums lodged an appeal in cassation with the Supreme Court. According to the Crimean Museums, the rulings violated Article 1 First Protocol (the right to peaceful enjoyment of one’s property) of the European Convention on Human Rights. It also argued that the Appeals Court arbitrarily gave Ukraine priority by basing its ruling on Ukraine’s Museums Act.
The Supreme Court ruled against the Crimean Museums. According to the Supreme Court, the State of Ukraine has a legitimate interest in protecting this cultural heritage, and the return of these treasures to Ukraine is a temporary measure - namely, pending stabilization in Crimea.
“It represents a fair balance between the violation of the rights of the Crimean Museums and the interest of the State of Ukraine in the protection of its cultural heritage,” the Supreme Court ruled.
The Supreme Court also found that the Court of Appeals correctly applied the statutory standard and rules in giving Ukraine’s Museums Act priority in its consideration. “The Allard Pierson Museum must hand over the art treasures to the State of Ukraine,” the Supreme Court said.
No further appeals are possible.