Showing posts with label The Hague. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Hague. Show all posts

November 4, 2015

Wednesday, November 04, 2015 - ,,, No comments

Recap: Erasing the Past: Da’esh and the Crisis of Antiquities Destruction

By: 
Mairead McAuliffe
Wellesley College
Class of 2016

On September 24, 2015, Wellesley College hosted a conference entitled, Erasing the Past: Da’esh and the Crisis of Antiquities Destruction. Jointly sponsored by the College’s History and Religious Studies departments, the conference hosted a group of international scholars, cultural heritage specialists and journalists who reflected on the scope of the continuing crisis in Iraq and Syria. The conference participants provided grounded and informative commentary on the Islamic State’s use of social media to circulate messages of violence, power and ruthlessness. The topics of the conference sessions provided attendees with a sense of the regions’ cultural devastation and ideas as to how the identities of these peoples can be protected and restored. 

I had the opportunity to attend two of the conference’s sessions. Professor Morag Kersel of DePaul University’s Anthropology Department presented on the topic of antiquity looting. She ultimately argued that preventing antiquity looting in the future would require behavioral change, as opposed to continued law enforcement. Kersel contended that advocacy campaigns have been successful in the past, such as the campaign to shame individuals who fashion animal skins and furs or collectors of ivory objects. She believes that society at large should render looting as antisocial behavior. According to Kersel, encouraging the general public to actively engage in this type of moral marketing would corrode the attractiveness of and participation in this trade. 

I also attended the presentation of Professor Patty Gerstenblith of DePaul University’s College of Law regarding the abilities and limitations of international law in the context of cultural heritage preservation  first multilateral treaties that addressed the conducts of warfare 

.  Professor Gerstenblith discussed the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907,  the first multilateral treaties that addressed the conducts of warfare negotiated at two international peace conferences at The Hague in the Netherlands.  The 1863 Lieber Code, signed by President Abraham Lincoln during the United States’ Civil War, guided these conventions and ultimately yielded regulations for wartime conduct that prohibited both the pillage, seizure and damage of cultural heritage and the requirement that sites be marked with a distinctive sign. 

Professor Gerstenblith highlighted, however, that the ratification of these treatises is voluntary, therefore many of these regulations are useless when not enforced, and war crime tribunals are only applied to the defeated – not to the victors. Professor Gerstenblith argued, therefore, that the most successful approaches to cultural heritage preservation involve the training of local people in the logistics of protection and the training of the military. 

I also had the opportunity to speak with some of the panelists during the conference lunch break. I asked the presenters what they believe to be missing from the mainline news outlets regarding the topic of cultural heritage protection in the Middle East. Professor Patty Gerstenblith and Charles Jones of Penn State University both agreed that accuracy and precision were missing from the discussion.  Jones lamented the fact that much of the looted material is undocumented, therefore the world will never know, nor will it see, objects that have been stolen or destroyed. He highlighted that such devastation negatively affects education and scholarship. 

Prof. Gerstenblith observed that the media is only interested if such devastation is linked to ISIS and its ruthless behavior. She stated that little emphasis is placed on art in times of war and oftentimes its destruction is excused for military purposes. She argued that the actions of ISIS in the Middle East constitute cultural genocide. The group’s leaders seek to “tear down reminders of the Assad Regime,” that is, their tangible national symbols. Dr. Salam al-Kuntar of the University of Pennsylvania’s Anthropology Department, offered similar sentiments saying that the media’s largest focus is on ISIS and its brutish behavior, as opposed to the state of Aleppo because its stories are “more of the same, there is nothing new to report.” 

I also asked what they would say if they had the ability to relay one thing about the Erasing the Past conference to the greater public. Professor Gerstenblith said that, if anything, this conference, with its abundance of panelists and sessions, highlights that this topic is “more complicated than we realize.” Charles Jones also commented on the variety of speakers saying that these events and discussions attract “new people each time” indicating a “raised consciousness” and the positive power of PR in escalating issues of cultural heritage protection. Finally, Dr. al-Kuntar said that this conference, among others, demonstrates the “efforts of academics and scholars in understanding the complexities of cultural heritage preservation.” 

Ultimately, the conference yielded productive conversation regarding all aspects of the intricacy of cultural heritage protection during times of crisis. The conference also exhibited the lack of clear protocol regarding actions that can be taken to achieve successful preservation. However, the passion, interest and intellect of the conference participants provide hope in the creation of such a protocol that would coordinate the protection not only of the material objects and symbols of a people, but also of the physical markers of culture, nation and identity. 

October 1, 2015

Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi Makes First Appearance at the International Criminal Court in The Hague


Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi at his first appearance hearing
at the International Criminal Court in The Hague ©ICC-CPI
Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, the alleged Islamic radical charged with involvement in the 2012 destruction of historic mausoleums and a mosque in Timbuktu made his first appearance before the single Judge of Pre-Trial Chamber I, Cuno Tarfusser, of the International Criminal Court at the seat of the ICC in The Hague (The Netherlands).  This appearance comes after an arrest warrant was issued for his arrest and transfer to the ICC on Sept. 18, 2015. A copy of the arrest warrant, ICC-01/12-01/15 The Prosecutor v. Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi can be read in French here.

Yesterday’s hearing was held in the presence of the Prosecutor and the Defence Duty Counsel, Mohamed Aouini. The Single Judge verified the identity of the suspect, Mr. Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, and ensured that he was clearly informed of the charges brought against him and of his rights under the Rome Statute of the ICC to be communicated with in a language he fully understands.

Dressed in a suit and tie, Al Faqi Al Mahdi confirmed his identity and replied to Judge Cuno Tarfusser that he preferred to be spoken to in Arabic. In answering to the court, the suspect stated he was ethnic Tuareg, born approximately 40 years ago in Agoune, 100 km west of Timbuktu.   He indicated that he was a "graduate of the teachers' institute in Timbuktu and and a civil servant in education in the Malian government beginning 2011.

At this point in the hearing process, Al Faqi Al Mahdi was not required to enter a plea.  He he made no comment on the current charges against him. 

Mr. Al Faqi Al Mahdi’s trial marks a watershed moment in heritage crime prosecution as it represents the first case of its kind to be brought before the ICC concerning the destruction of buildings dedicated to religion and historical monuments.  Until recently the court, has focused its cases on attacks against individuals.  

Judge Tarfusser has set a date for the confirmation of charges hearing in respect to Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi for 18 January 2016.

The full proceedings of the hearing can be viewed below. 




May 8, 2014

Authenticity in Art Congress 2014: Retired FBI Agent Virginia Curry reports from The Hague

Martin Kemp presented "It Doesn't Look Like Leonardo"
on the first day of the Authenticity in Art Congress
by Virginia M. Curry

THE HAGUE -- The Authenticity in Art Congress opened Wednesday here at the Louwman [Automobile] Museum in The Hague to discuss how the seemingly opposed spheres of  science and art history connoisseurship  might be aligned  to synthesize a protocol for establishing authenticity of art, specifically paintings.

Jugen W. Wittmann, the Senior Manager of the Mercedes Benz archives and Collection Brand Communications, presented the protocols utilized by Mercedes Benz to preserve the integrity of their vehicles against forgery.  Documents in their archives record each car manufactured and the “as delivered” condition of the vehicle to the original owner, with the serial numbers recorded on the vehicle. Wittman noted that such transparency is important since although there were only 33 of the Mercedes SSK ever built, there are more than 100 hundred registered as SSKs with the international Vintage Collectors Group.

Keynote Speaker Javier Lumbreras, the CEO of Artemundi Global Fund, discussed the collection of art and the frustrations of the purchaser who is burdened with the proof of due diligence.  He concluded by saying that inasmuch as science cannot provide a “bulletproof” decision which can stand up as evidence in court, litigation, in his experience, is not worth the effort.  Lumbreras drew an analogy similar to that of Jugen Wittmann of Mercedes Benz by noting that of the fourteen Rembrandt works in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art only seven of them have an agreed authenticity.

Professor Martin Kemp, FBA, Emeritus Professor in the History of Art, Trinity College Oxford, (and an acknowledged Leonardo scholar) initiated the section on the Historical Developments in Painting Authentication and spoke about professional opinion in his paper, “It Doesn’t Look Like Leonardo”. Professor Kemp argued the construction of evidence of authenticity as “The judgment by eye in science and art and the tendency for the eye to see what it expects to see.”  He illustrated his point by comparing the points of view of a traffic accident, such as the point of view of the insurance adjuster, driver, weatherman, etc. noting that each one’s interpretation of what they see is relative to their interest. Professor Kemp concluded that the observable consequences of the visual techniques of historical and scientific that are the most specific in identification are the most malleable.  Above all, he cautioned, “We should be more cautious and prudent in our personal investments in our malleable acts and seeing.”

Marker for Vermeer in The Hague
Dr. Margaret Dalivalle presented a paper, “Picturarum vere Originalium: Inventing originality in early Modern London", which explored the question of originality of paintings and the invention of the idea of artistic originality in the eighteenth century.

Professor Frank James, Professor of the History of Science, Head of Collections and Heritage of the Royal Institution, London, spoke about the work of Humphrey Davy and Michael Faraday who developed chemical techniques in the late 18th, early 19th century to understand, conserve and record archeological and artistic objects, such as the wall painting and vase painting from Pompeii; the Lewis chess pieces; the unfurling and attempts to read the Herculaneum Papyri; and their comparisons with the pigments found on the Elgin marbles.

Dr. Lynn Catterson, an Art Historian from Columbia University, presented an extraordinary paper and cautionary tale about Stefano Bardini and his Art of Crafting Authenticity.  Dr. Catterson's research led into the archives of Stefano Bardini whose expertize involved the forgery of “originals” and falsification of context and provenance.  Dr. Catterson’s research  in the Bardini archive challenges the accepted comparanda and consequently, perceived authenticity and attributions in major museums.

Dr. John Brewer, Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences, CalTech, discussed the Duveen Trial of 1929,  the hazards of presenting scientific evidence of authenticity in court, and the subsequent rejection of conflicting  connoisseurship in court.

Evan Hepler-Smith, a Historian of modern science and doctoral candidate at Princeton University, discussed the early utilization of x-ray to fit the material, intellectual and social contours of authentication and  connoisseurship.

Ms. Curry is a retired FBI agent, a licensed private investigator, and an art historian.