London, March 17, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Thanasis Gavos
The end of March will signify a potentially major shift of the basis on which the Parthenon Marbles reunification case has been developing. Following years of deconstructing the British Museum’s arguments for retaining the ancient Greek Sculptures in London and cultivating a favourable public opinion, Greece may actually be ready to pursue legal avenues.
The deadline that UNESCO has set for the UK government to respond to its offer to mediate between London and Athens expires on the 31st. The (British) legal team that has taken up the unenviable task of coming up with valid advice on how to best exploit the international law in order for the Sculptures to return to Athens has been feverishly preparing its proposal for the last few months, ever since they visited the previous Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in the Greek capital.
The experienced -and glamorous on account of Amal Clooney’s presence- team is said to be nearing completion of a book length legal advice document. Sources have confirmed to IBNA that there is no expectation of any UNESCO offer acknowledgment move from the British government, and that the Doughty Street Chambers team led by Geoffrey Robertson QC is foreseeing some development possibly in a couple of months’ time.
The well-known barrister recently attended a Greek Press Association dinner in north London, which was well attended by a number of distinguished diaspora Greeks and British philhellenes. He was asked to say a few words regarding the work that he does for the Greek government and his every word truly emitted passion.
He outlined what he called the “Navarino syndrome”, a fear of being rude to the British, to whom successive generations of Greeks were eternally grateful for having helped to kick out the Turks at the Battle of Navarino in 1827, and the Nazis 118 years later. “There should be no fear of upsetting the British by taking them to court,” said Robertson, because “the British like being sued. What makes Britain great is that it obeys international law. As Gladstone put it, the arbitrament of the court is preferable to the arbitrament of the sword.”
In a glimpse of where some of his team’s arguments may be based, the Australian-British barrister rejected the UK government’s official position that the Marbles are a matter for the British Museum’s trustees. “Who signed the export permits for the statue of river God Ilissos to be transferred to the Hermitage in St Petersburgh? Who appoints the majority of the trustees?” he asked.
A lawyer who has been examining Athens’s choices for legally claiming back the Sculptures has told this agency that the primary “headache” for Greece’s legal representation would be to prove which court of law should hear the case; that would be the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and the difficulty would arise from the British government’s likely position that the court does not have the jurisdiction to do so, as for London this is not an argument between state authorities, but between the Greek state and the British Museum. “If they get this wrong at the start, then they risk ending up with a dead case on their hands,” he warned.