International Judicial Monitor
Published by the International Judicial Academy, Washington, D.C., with assistance from the
American Society of International Law

Winter 2014 Issue

100 Ways


International Law: One Hundred Ways It Shapes Our Lives

100 Ways

Seeing a touring exhibit of art from the Louvre museum [or many other museums around the world]

By: James G. Apple, Editor-in-Chief, International Judicial Monitor, and President, International Judicial Academy

(In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the American Society of International Law in 2006, the Society published a pamphlet titled International Law: One Hundred Ways It Shapes Our Lives. The Introduction gives an explanation for its conception: an affirmation that “international law not only exists, but also penetrates much more deeply and broadly into everyday life than the people it affects may generally appreciate.” This column seeks to elucidate and elaborate on many of the 100 ways briefly presented in the ASIL pamphlet.)

It is a truism to say that tourism became, in the 20th century, one of the major industries of the world. The trend has been expanded into the 21st century. Citizens from almost all nations of the world are enjoying the benefits of travel, not only to interesting places in their own country, but also to destinations beyond home boundaries. And the destinations of a great many of these travelers relate to culture – museums, national parks, historic sites, house museums, public and private gardens, and places of great nature beauty.

One of the results and benefits of the growth of tourism has been the making available to more and more people around the globe the cultural assets of a particular country. This has taken the form of traveling exhibits of all kinds, particularly art works. For instance, in the Washington area, the National Gallery of Art several years ago featured a touring exhibit of 30 of the 34 known paintings of Johannes Vermeer, the great 17th century Dutch painter. These extraordinary paintings came from public and private collections in many different parts of the world. It was one of the most viewed exhibits in the history of the National Gallery as visitors waited in long lines that stretched out into the sidewalks and completely around the building.



Such traveling art exhibits, as well as shows of other cultural artifacts (such as the well-attended exhibit of the artifacts from the tomb of Tutankhamen in Egypt more than thirty years ago at the Field Museum in Chicago and other U.S. cities) are made possible by international law, specifically a convention drafted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and adopted at a conference in Paris in November, 1970.

The 26 articles of the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property provides not only means and mechanisms for preventing the “illicit import, export, and transfer of ownership of cultural property” of the States Parties, and protecting such property, but also establishes mechanisms for the permissible transfer of such property from one state to another, such as occurs with traveling art exhibits, through the establishment of a certificate system.

The Convention identifies the types of cultural property subject to its provisions. These include rare specimens of fauna, flora, and minerals; property relating to many different kinds of history (science, technology, military, social, etc.); elements of artistic or historical monuments; products of archeological excavations; antiquities more than 100 years old; property of artistic interest, including pictures, paintings, and statuary; and rare manuscripts and old books.

The States Parties to the Convention obligate themselves to pass appropriate laws to prevent the illicit possession and movement of such cultural property and to establish “national services” for their protection. Article 7 specifically relates to thefts from museums. States Parties are required to cooperate in the capture and return of stolen art works to the institutions from which they were stolen.

The Convention was adopted because the States Parties “recognize that the illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property is one of the main causes of the impoverishment of the cultural heritage of the countries of origin of such property and that international cooperation constitutes one of the most efficient means of protecting each country’s cultural property against all of the dangers resulting there from.”

The Convention went into force on April14, 1972. There are currently 125 nations that are signatories to it.

ASIl & International Judicial AcademyInternational Judicial Monitor
© 2014 – The International Judicial Academy
with assistance from the American Society of International Law.

Editor: James G. Apple.
IJM welcomes comments, suggestions, and submissions.
Please contact the IJM editor at