Describing the British Museum’s handling of the Parthenon as “arrogant cultural vandalism,” Amal Clooney and Geoffrey Robertson went in to a meeting with Greek Culture Minister Kostas Tassoulas swinging.
The internationally renown team of lawyers known for cultural restoration and repatriation matters met Tuesday with the Greek Culture Minister to discuss strategy on the Parthenon Marbles case— considered one of the biggest international cultural treasures repatriations in recent memory. International media attention on the visit to Athens has been huge— with coverage coming from top newspapers throughout the world, particularly the British press which has a keen interest in the matter.
Speaking exclusively to the Guardian, Amal Clooney, the Oxford-educated lawyer told Helena Smith: “In my view returning the Parthenon Marbles to Greece is the just thing to do. I hope that an amicable solution to this issue can be found, given the longstanding friendship between Greece and the UK,” she said, adding that she believed it was a good idea to consult UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
“But I believe it is prudent for the Greek government to seek legal advice – including in relation to ongoing efforts to engage Unesco – and of course it is for them to determine their next steps in light of this legal context,” she concluded in her interview with the Guardian.
“The Parthenon friezes are an amazing and unique snapshot of human civilisation 2,500 years ago. They show not war but happy, well-liquored discourse between the first truly civilised peoples. Half of this snapshot is in Athens beneath the blue sky above the Acropolis. The other half is in a sterilized gallery as if on a hospital bed in a museum,” he added.
Robertson, who enlisted Clooney to work on a team now handling the portfolio at the London-based legal firm Doughty Chambers, described the British Museum’s steadfast refusal to return the carvings as “arrogant cultural vandalism”.
“Half of the marbles are in the Acropolis Museum in Athens and the other half in the British Museum. They must be brought together because they are unique pieces of evidence about the beginnings of human civilization, and it is imperative that they be reunited under the Greek sky, not the sterile light of the British Museum,” he told Anthee Carasavva of People Magazine.
Even worse, Robertson said, officials at the British Museum had committed the cardinal sin of damaging the sculptures by employing controversial means to clean them.
“It is a great project, not for Greece but for the world, to reunite the marbles so we can see them clearly where Phidias first carved them, to juxtapose the beginning of human civilization with the threat to it posed today by Isis,” added the lawyer, known for his most recent task of returning Australian Aboriginal artifacts that were on display at another London museum, referring to the barbaric tactics employed by Islamist terrorists to the east of Greece.
“It is arrogant cultural vandalism for the British Museum to insist that this most important relic of our culture should be broken in two. International law has developed to the stage where a unique, and I stress unique, cultural artifact should be repaired.”