Renvoi: Lex Situs Conflictus

Canadian Conflict of Laws Blawg by Seva Batkin

Posts Tagged ‘cultural property’

Renvoi Doesn’t Help Get Artefacts Back

Posted by Seva on March 19, 2008

There is an interesting article by Derek Fincham J.D., currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland on a recently failed attempt to use the doctrine of renvoi to facilitate return of illegally taken artefact to the source country.

In short, a fragment of an ancient relief was taken from Iran between 1932 and 1974, at which point it was purchased by an unwitting French collector at a New York auction. In 2005, she attempted to sell the relief at Christie’s in London, at which point Iranian government got involved, filed a claim alleging title to the relief, and obtained an interlocutory injunction restraining the sale. Having conceded that under English and French law the relief was movable property to which lex situs (i.e. French law) applied, Iran’s chief argument was that English court should apply renvoi. Not only did it argue that the English court should apply the French conflict of law rules, but also that such rules, or more particularly the public policy behind them, would cause a French court to apply Iranian patrimony laws and thus order the return of the relief. Unfortunately, Iran could cite no precedents to bolster its position. In fact, it faced problems from the perspective of both legal systems, English and French.

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