Human Rights and Cultural Heritage: From the Holocaust to the Haitian Earthquake

The American Society of International Law, the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage
Preservation, the Art Law Society of Cardozo Law School, and the Hofstra Law School Art and
Cultural Heritage Club presented “Human Rights and Cultural Heritage: From the Holocaust to the Haitian Earthquake” at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law on March 31st.

The event offered a day-long program of panel discussions on Natural Disasters, Nazi-Looted Art, Archival practices, and the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. Lawyers, conservators, government agents, academics, students and others were in attendance. The Keynote Address was given by Howard Spiegler, Partner and Co-Chair of the Art Law Group at Herrick, Feinstein LLP. A full program for the event is available here.

The event focused around the issue of how to protect culture, via laws, conservation, restitution and other methods, and how to also ensure protection of human rights. There is a blurry line between preservation and protection of culture. Culture is not frozen, but it cannot be appreciated without an understanding of the cultural evolution and without links to cultural heritage. Current and future generations may have a duty to restore cultural objects where there has been a failure to protect them. There is a multitude of national, ethnic, and other cultures, and there is also a single, universal cultural history. Both must be respected and protected, but never at the cost of violating human rights. A particularly fine balance must be struck when it comes to natural disasters. It should be the top priority of governments, NGOs, and volunteers to save human life, but the importance of saving culture for those survivors should not be forgotten.

The Cardozo Art Law Society looks forward to hosting similar events in the future. E-mail cardozoartlaw@gmail.com if you are interested in obtaining further information or materials.

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