Rubin Redux: Rights Balancing in Cultural Heritage Litigation
10 Transnational Dispute Management, Issue 5 (October 2013)
11 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2013
Date Written: December 10, 2013
One of the more interesting disputes to arise in the United States in recent years is the Rubin litigation, which involves several judgment creditors who, having won a default judgment against Iran for injuries relating to a terrorist attack in 1997, attempted to satisfy that judgment by attaching cultural antiquities in several US-based museums. These disputes have proven somewhat complicated as a result of the intricacies of the US Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) and the unusual nature of the judgment debtor’s non-participation in the underlying default judgment and ensuing litigation. However, the Rubin cases also reflect a number of larger issues, including an inherent tension between individual rights and collective rights in cultural heritage litigation as well as various challenges associated with the mix of public and private law. The question of whether and to what extent a party may attach state-owned cultural property that is located outside the country of origin is a difficult one as a matter of both law and policy. This Article discusses a number of issues relating to this topic, considering basic principles of US law as well as more general concerns that may arise in other jurisdictions. In so doing, this Article provides an overview of the kind of jurisprudential and practical matters that can arise with increasing frequency in the coming years.
Keywords: cultural heritage, art law, cultural patrimony, cultural property, Iran, Rubin, attachment, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, FSIA, museum, Terrorist Risk Insurance Act, TRIA, collective rights
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