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May 2, 2024

The European Court of Human Rights has rejected the J. Paul Getty Museum’s appeal and upholds the decision issued by Italian authorities on the recovery of the “Victorious Youth”

Image Credit: S. King

Today on May 2, 2024 the First Section of the European Court of Human Rights, also known as the Strasbourg Court, (ECHR - Cour européenne des droits de l'homme) rejected the J. Paul Getty Museum’s appeal and entered a ruling in the case of The J. Paul Getty Trust and Others v. Italy (Application no. 35271/19) upholding the decision issued by Italian authorities aimed at the recovery of the bronze statue, “Victorious Youth” (also referred to as the “Athlete of Fano” or the “Lysippus of Fano”), dating to the classical period. This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, though it may be subject to editorial revision.

The appeal had been lodged with the Court against the Italian Republic under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by the J. Paul Getty Trust and fourteen American nationals (“the applicants”) on 28 June 2019 made up of:

The J. Paul Getty Trust
Megan Brody Chernin
James Bash Cuno
Bruce Wall Dunlevie
Catharine Drew Dilpin Faust
Frances Daly Fergusson
Maria Denise Hummer-Tuttle
Pamela Joyner
Paul Omer Leclerc
David Li Lee 
Robert Whitney Lovelace
Thelma Esther Melendez de Santa Ana
Neil Leon Rudenstine
Ronald Paul Spogli

The J. Paul Getty Trust and the members of its board of trustees (“the trustees”) alleged that the adoption of the confiscation order constituted a violation of their right to the peaceful enjoyment of their possessions, as guaranteed by Article 1 of Protocol No. 1. They further complained of the risk of being deprived of that right if the Italian authorities succeeded in obtaining recognition and enforcement of the confiscation in the United States of America (US), where the bronze is exhibited, at the Getty Villa in Malibu, California. 

The judicial authorities in Italy had already ruled the the Statue of the Victorius Youth was protected by Italian cultural heritage and customs law, had been unlawfully exported from Italy and then negligently purchased by the Trust despite the absence of an export licence and repeated attempts by the Italian authorities to recover it.

In making the ruling announced this morning, the European Court Chamber, composed of:

Marko Bošnjak, President
Alena Poláčková, 
Krzysztof Wojtyczek, 
Lətif Hüseynov,
Ivana Jelić,
Gilberto Felici, 
Raffaele Sabato, 
and Ilse Freiwirth, Section Registrar,

deliberated in private on 19 March 2024, delivering their judgment today.

In their 92 page ruling on 2 May 2024 the court issued its ruling stating it:

1. Upholds, unanimously, the Government’s objection to the standing of the members of the first applicant’s board of trustees and declares that they have no standing to lodge the present application;

The J. Paul Getty Trust and Others v. Italy Judgement

2. Holds, unanimously, that there is no need to rule on whether the new members of the first applicant’s board of trustees have standing to pursue the present application;

3. Dismisses, by a majority, the other preliminary objections raised by the Government and declares, by a majority, the complaint under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 admissible;

4. Holds, unanimously, that there has been no violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention.

Each of the parties were notified in writing on 2 May 2024, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court, signed by Ilse Freiwirth as Registrar and Marko Bošnjak  as President.

In accordance with Article 45 § 2 of the Convention and Rule 74 § 2 of the Rules of Court, the separate opinion of Judge Wojtyczek was annexed to their judgment.

It should be noted that in accordance with the provisions of Articles 43 and 44 of the Convention, this Chamber judgment is not final. Within three months from the date of its delivery, any party may request the referral of the case to the Grand Chamber of the Court. In such a case, a panel of five judges determines whether the case merits further examination.  Should this occur, the Grand Chamber will seize
the case and will issue a final judgment. 

If the referral request is rejected, the Chamber judgment will become final on the date of the Grand Chamber rejection.