Creating new perspectives since 2009

Switzerland returns three looted artefacts to Iraq

May 26, 2024 at 9:30 am

Switzerland flag [BKP/Wikipedia]

Switzerland has returned three prominent Mesopotamian artefacts to Iraq, in Baghdad’s latest recovery of historical items stolen from it over the decades.

Speaking at a ceremony held at the culture ministry in the Swiss capital Bern yesterday, Switzerland’s Interior Minister Elisabeth Baume-Schneider formally handed over to Iraq’s Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein two Mesopotamian reliefs and a partial statue, returning them to Iraqi control.

Having been discovered and documented during official excavations in Iraq in 1846/47, 1959, and 1976, the artefacts are dated to being from 1,700 to 2,800 years old. According to the culture ministry, they “were subsequently removed from Iraq at an unknown date and possibly illegally”.

The items were then seized during a criminal procedure in the province of Geneva last year, with authorities handing the main suspect in that case a prison sentence on charges of forging documents and violating the Cultural Property Transfer Act, which bans the transfer of stolen or looted cultural goods.

Yesterday’s return of the three artefacts to Iraq was Switzerland’s fifth such restitution to the country and reportedly the most significant since 2005. It is particularly a result of the fact that both Baghdad and Bern are parties to a UNESCO convention aimed at protecting cultural heritage by banning and preventing illegal imports, exports, and transfers of cultural property.

READ: Iraq recovers looted artefact from Italy