S.2212 will eliminate or significantly reduce the legal rights of rightful owners in US courts against foreign institutions holding looted art entering the United States.
The Stolen Artwork Restitution Act will instead ensure that museums perform provenance research in their collections to determine whether they hold looted artworks.
Senate: Abandon S. 2212, Vote for the Stolen Artwork Restitution Act
The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
The Honorable Dianne Feinstein
United States Senate
331 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
The Honorable Orrin G. Hatch
Senate Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
104 Hart Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
RE: S. 2212
Dear Senators Feinstein, Hatch and Leahy:
As a Holocaust survivor or a descendant of a Holocaust survivor, I am appalled that Congress is considering S.2212/H.R. 4086, the “Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act” for passage. I am asking that you withdraw S. 2212 from any consideration or vote.
The reasons for a complete withdrawal of S. 2212 are explained by SAFE (“Saving Antiquites for Everyone”) (http://www.savingantiquities.org/our-work/advocacy/s-2212/, http://www.savingantiquities.org/say-no-to-senate-bill-2212/, http://www.savingantiquities.org/alert-safe-still-says-no-to-s-2212/letter), the LCCHP (“Lawyers Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation”) ((http://www.culturalheritagelaw.org/S2212), and HARP (“Holocaust Art Restitution Project”) (http://www.culturalheritagelaw.org/Resources/Documents/Letter%20to%20Senator%20Leahy.pdf).
Instead of this shameful bill, I am asking that, instead, you pass the “Stolen Artwork Restitution Act,” first proposed by Senator Schumer in 1998 (see below).
I am also appalled at the missteps in public policy regarding restitution of artworks on the part of lawmakers, as well as museums. I am sure you remember the promises made by the museum directors in the House of Representatives 1998 Hearings, under then Chair of Banking Committee Jim Leach, to perform in-depth provenance research for their entire collections.
Rather than delivering on those empty promises, museums are lobbying you and are continuing the tragedy of the Holocaust, by asking you to ensure that theft from owners in times of war and dictatorship and the greed resulting from its commercial exploitation would be officially protected from justice.
How did your Committee get in that position? How can you allow can this be? How can Congress, which recognized the Holocaust and its effect by passing the Holocaust Victims Redress Act in 1998, claiming the right to protect Holocaust victims, then turn and attempt to redefine, restrict and change the definition of theft and victims, for the simple purpose of protecting the largest grand theft of art ever perpetrated on humanity?
How many times must victims of such awful tragedies of genocide and war fight against attempts to seek the official protection wrongfully granted by the House of Representatives with H.R. 4086? How many times can misplaced congressmen legislatively or by fiat be allowed to supplant the truth of the Holocaust, thus causing such violence to those so violated over and over for decades? How can lawmakers be allowed or feel so free to ignore the long shadow of history and the clear facts, to be morphed so easily into profound loss of the truth and such pain for the victims?
This must stop now. You must hear the demand from the victims to stop these tragedies to continue. You must abandon S. 2212, and instead adopt and vote for the Stolen Artwork Restitution Act.
I thank you for your leadership on this important issue and for your support.
TEXT OF THE STOLEN ARTWORK RESTITUTION ACT
April 25, 2012
IN THE SENATE
To encourage the return of stolen artwork
1 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives
2 of the United States in Congress assembled,
3 SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
4 This Act may be cited as the " Stolen Artwork Res-
5 titution Act of 2012".
1 SEC. 2. GRANTS TO QRGANIZATIONS TO HELP RELOCATE
2 AND RECLAIM STOLEN ARTWORK.
3 (a) AUTHORITY.-The Attorney General may make
4 grants to qualified organizations to assist persons from
5 whom artwork was stolen to relocate and reclaim such art -
7 (b) QUALIFIED ORGANIZATION DEFINED-For the
8 purposes of this section, the term " qualified organiza-
9 tions" means organizations which the Attorney General
lO finds to be qualified by reason of a record of dem-
11 onstrated ability, to assist persons from whom artwork has
12 been stolen to relocate and reclaim such artwork.
13 (c) TERMS AND CONDITIONS.- Grants under this
14 section may be made under such terms and conditions as
15 the Attorney General may require. The Attorney General
16 shall require such reports from the recipients of grants
17 as the Attorney General considers necessary to ensure that
18 the grants are being used appropriately and effectively.
19 (d) REPORT.-The Attorney General shall transmit
20 an annual report to the Congress listing the organizations
21 which have received grants under this section.
22 SEC. 3. PURCHASER REVIEW OF ARTWORK OWNERSHIP
24 (a) PURCHASER REVIEW.-Except as provided in
25 subsection (b), a purchaser of artwork that has been
26 shipped in interstate or foreign commerce may not assert
1 in a court in the United States an otherwise valid claim,
2 under Federal, State, or otherwise applicable law, to own-
3 ership of such artwork, if the purchaser has not completed
4 a reasonable review of the artwork's ownership history to
5 determine whether the artwork has been stolen.
6 (b) EXCEPTION FOR ARTWORK STOLEN FROM PUR-
7 CHASER-Subsection (a) shall not apply to a claim to
8 ownership of artwork asserted by a purchaser against a
9 person, or such person's successor in interest, who alleg-
I 0 edly stole the artwork from the purchaser.
11 (e) EFFECTIVE DATE.-This section shall apply to
12 artwork purchased 60 days or more after the date of the
13 enactment of this Act.
14 SEC. 4. REVIEW OF FEDERALLY-OWNED ARTWORK.
15 (a) REVIEW.-The Attorney General shall undertake
16 a review of all artwork in the possession of the Federal
17 Government to determine, to the extent practicable,
J 8 whether any such artwork has been stolen.
19 (b) COOPERATION.-Each department, agency, and
20 instrumentality of the United 8tates shall cooperate •with
21 the Attorney General in connection with the review under-
22 taken pursuant to this section.
23 (c) REPORT.-The Attorney General shall transmit
24 a report to the Congress describing the results of the re-
25 view undertaken pursuant to this section.
1 SEC. 5. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.
2 For the period encompassing fiscal years 2012
3 through 2013 there are authorized to be appropriated to
4 the Attorney General $15,000,000 to carry out this Act.
5 Of such amount, $5,000,000 may only be awarded as
6 grants under section 2.
7 SEC. 6. SENSE OF THE CONGRESS.
8 It is the sense of the Congress that-
9 (1) all museums and auction houses should per-
I 0 form reviews to determine if they are in possession
11 of stolen artwork;
12 (2) all governments m possession of artwork
13 stolen from victims of the Holocaust should return
14 that artwork to its rightful owners; and
15 (3) parties disputing the ownership of stolen
16 artwork should attempt to resolve their disputes by
17 alternative means, sud1 as by arbitration, before
18 seeking judicial remedies.
19 SEC. 7. EXCLUSION.
20 For the purposes of this Act, the term "artwork''
21 doe~ not include--
22 ( 1) works of art that have been discovered by
23 archaeological means after having been hidden or
24 undiscovered for 100 years or more; or
25 (2) published or unpublished literary works.