William and Mary Law School

“All Is Fair In Art and War”

Confiscation of Cultural Property during Times of Armed Conflict

March 21st, 2011 at 5 PM

William & Mary School of Law

Williamsburg, Virginia

Sponsored by the Human Security Law Center

Panelists include:

Ambassador Pavlos Anastasiades, Ambassador of Cyprus to the United States

Dr. Allan Gerson, Chairman of AG International Law, PLLC

Thomas Kline, Partner, Andrews Kurth, LLP

Marion Werkheiser, Attorney with Cultural Heritage Partners, LLC

Dr. Aaron De Groft, Director of the Muscarelle Museum of Art          


The concern across the international community over possible looting or damage to Cairo’s Egyptian Museum highlights the problem of protecting some of the world’s most precious treasures: the cultural heritage of its peoples.  Armed conflict and political unrest provide the perfect storm for the destruction of world relics.  Within the world community, the law must adapt to recognize the challenges and potential human rights violations at issue when armed conflict threatens cultural property or results in confiscation of private art and artifacts.   

            These issues have increasingly gained both national and academic attention; Marion True’s recent trial in Rome, the looting of the National Museum in Baghdad, the continuing efforts of Holocaust victims and others unlawfully deprived of private property by government confiscation, and the long-running debate over ownership of the Elgin Marbles are only the most notorious examples of a centuries- old problem. Art and cultural property are transferred in one of the most unregulated global markets. As so-called “source” and “market” countries struggle to find common ground, the problems in the international market of cultural property are further exacerbated in times of war.

            Armed conflict also constitutes a prime opportunity for government appropriation of private property.  Under a change in regime, new governments may often use times of armed conflict to nationalize or seize private collections of art.  The extent to which individuals may be compensated for those takings, or to which governments enjoy sovereign immunity remains a ripe issue of international law. 

            Art has great value beyond merely the visual. It is a commodity that can be used to hide or transfer wealth. It can also be symbolic of the place and people from which it comes; the global reaction to the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan is one example of the emotional force that accompanies these cultural objects. They may also hold invaluable personal meaning to the private individual.  The issues that accompany cultural property both during and after armed conflict have increasingly come to the forefront, and the questions these issues present could not be more timely.


Ambassador Pavlos Anastasiades

Pavlos Anastasiades became ambassador of Cyprus to the United States on Sept. 16, 2010 having previously served as ambassador to Sweden (2005-10), as well as non-resident ambassador to Norway (2006-10). Ambassador Anastasiades, a native of Famagusta, Cyprus, also served as director of the Foreign Minister’s Office in Nicosia (2003-05), prior to which he was with the European Union Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2002-03). In addition, he was first counselor (2001-02) and second counselor (1999-2001) at the Cypriot Embassy in Sweden, as well as first secretary (1997) and second secretary (1993-97) at the Cypriot Embassy in Washington, D.C. Other postings include attaché in the Political Affairs Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1991-93). Ambassador Anastasiades joined the Cypriot Foreign Service in 1991, after having been a senior scientific research officer at the University of Oxford in Great Britain since 1981. 

Ambassador Anastasiades continues to advocate for international attention to the destruction of cultural property in occupied Cyprus.  He also raises awareness and educates the cultural heritage of Cyprus within the United States.  

Dr. Allan Gerson

Dr. Gerson is recognized as the first attorney to engineer a practical basis for suing foreign governments for acts of terrorism.  After the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, he initiated the first civil suit against a foreign state (Libya) on behalf of families of the victims. In 1996, Dr. Gerson’s efforts were instrumental in the passage of the Anti Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act which provides U.S. citizens with the right to sue foreign governments in U.S. courts for complicity in terrorism. The outcome of his efforts, in conjunction with other attorneys, was an historic $2.7 billion settlement with Libya. 

In 1977, Dr. Gerson joined the U.S. Justice Department as a trial attorney. He was awarded Distinguished Performance Awards for his work with the Appellate Section of the Civil Division, and later with the Office of Special Investigations of the Criminal Division. In 1981, Dr. Gerson was chosen to serve as Senior Counsel to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and in 1985 to her successor, General Vernon Walters. In 1985 and 1986, he served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Legal Counsel and Counselor for International Affairs with the U.S. Department of Justice. From 1986 to 1989 he was a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and from 1989 to 1995 he served as a Distinguished Professor of International Law and Transactions at George Mason University. In 1998 through 2002, he was Senior Fellow for International Law and Organizations at the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2003, he served as Senior Counsel to the US Delegation to the Commission on Human Rights. He is admitted to the New York and District of Columbia Bars, the US Supreme Court Bar, and various US Courts of Appeals Bars.  His private practice revolves around his role as Chairman of AG International Law, specializing in complex issues of international law and politics.  Dr. Gerson is currently representing the heirs of a private Russian family whose painting, Van Gogh’s “Night Café” was appropriated by the communist regime during the Bolshevik Revolution. 

Thomas R. Kline

Thomas R. Kline, partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Andrews Kurth LLP, has practiced law in the District of Columbia for more than thirty years, specializing generally in litigation, arbitration and dispute resolution and has, since 1989, represented governments, museums, churches, foundations, and families, including Holocaust survivors and heirs, in recovering stolen art appearing in the United States. He also represents American museums and collectors in responding to claims and generally handles a wide variety of art and cultural property litigation and advice matters for a diverse group of clients.

Mr. Kline began his work in the recovery of stolen art and cultural property in 1989 with the representation of the Autocephalous Greek-Orthodox Church of Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus in litigation against an art dealer in Indianapolis that led to the recovery of Byzantine mosaics that had been stolen from a Church in the Turkish-occupied area of Cyprus.  He also represented the Quedlinburg Church in recovering world-famous medieval religious treasures stolen in Allied-occupied Germany by an American officer in the immediate aftermath of World War II and mailed home to Texas.  Many of Mr. Kline’s cases involved art objects that were looted in wartime, but he also has worked and consulted on thefts from archeological sites and on the illegal removal, export and import of cultural artifacts.  Mr. Kline has represented families of Holocaust survivors and heirs of Holocaust victims in the recovery of art taken by the Nazis during World War II in the systematic looting of art owned by Jews and others.

Mr. Kline serves on the Board of the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation, co-teaches a seminar on Cultural Property at the George Washington University, Museum Studies Program, and writes and speaks frequently on art, museum and cultural property issues including serving on the Advisory Board of the German/English publication Kunst und Recht (Art and Law).  In 1999, Mr. Kline appeared before the Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States.  For his work on behalf of  the Quedlinburg Church and other German Cultural institutions, Mr. Kline was awarded the Officers Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.


Marion Werkheiser

Marion Forsyth Werkheiser is an attorney with Cultural Heritage Partners, as well as an educator and nonprofit director. She has researched and published on myriad issues related to cultural heritage preservation, including the looting of Iraq's antiquities, the protection of shipwrecks, criminal prosecutions of theft from U.S. archaeological sites, and the international trade in art and antiquities. For four years she taught an upper level seminar on international and domestic cultural property law at the College of William and Mary Law School, and she has presented her work at conferences of the Archaeological Institute of America, the Society for American Archaeology, US/ICOMOS and the World Archaeological Congress. Closer to home, she has worked with preservation organizations in Virginia to protect sites through local historic preservation ordinances, conservation easements, and adaptive reuse.  Ms. Werkheiser recently presented at the US/ICOMOS International Symopsium in Washington, DC on the topic "International Cultural Property Trusts: One Response to the Burden of Proof Challenges in Stolen Antiquities Litigation."

Dr. Aaron DeGroft

Dr. De Groft received his undergraduate degree in Art History from The College of William and Mary, '88; an M.A. in Art History and Museum Studies with a specialty in contemporary American painting from the University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina; and as an Appleton Fellow received his Ph.D. in Art History from Florida State University with a specialty in European art from the 15th through the 19th centuries.  He has also studied Italian Renaissance and Baroque art history in Florence, Italy.

Aaron De Groft has held professional curatorial and teaching positions at McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina, at Florida State University, at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, and at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in Jacksonville, Florida. His current research and publishing interests are in Old Master European art including work on Titian, Peter Paul Rubens and a number of other Italian artists.  De Groft is also engaged in focused work on theGilded Age, and American collectors of Old Master paintings, including a major, forthcoming book on John Ringling, the American Circus and business entrepreneur who built one of the most significant European painting collections in the world and then left it to the people of Florida as his grand legacy.

Before returning to The College in 2005, De Groft was the curator and project coordinator of the Fiftieth Anniversary celebration at the Ringling Museum from late 1995 through 1998. He returned as the Deputy Director & Chief Curator at the Ringling in October 2000 as part of the Florida State University/Ringling affiliation where he oversaw the final phases of the $15,000,000 conservation and restoration of the Ringling historic mansion, Cà d’Zan, as well as overseeing the art collection, conservation, the library, education and programs and the Circus Museum.