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Procedure in binding opinion cases

Generally, the procedure in binding opinion cases is as follows:

Investigation phase
After the phase during which the formalities are dealt with, the Committee gives the parties the opportunity to clarify their points of view in writing. To this end, they are sent a procedure letter with a form summarising the questions relevant for investigating the facts. Both parties complete the questionnaire and return it within six weeks, a period that can be extended if necessary. It is important that the questionnaire is signed by the party in question, i.e. the current owner of the claimed artwork (or their representative), and the party claiming the artwork (or their representative), respectively. The source of any documents the parties enclose with the questionnaire must be clear (archive, literature, etc.).

The Committee may decide to conduct a further investigation on the basis of the information it receives from the parties, and it may also request the parties to provide further clarification. Information received from the parties during the investigation phase and any information the Committee has collated in a further investigation is summarised and quoted in part in a draft investigatory report. This draft report is sent to both parties for comment. After receiving their responses to the draft report, the Committee decides whether a further investigation, a hearing or a meeting between the parties is necessary or advisable before it proceeds to prepare its opinion.

Opinion phase
The Committee assesses a case in accordance with the standards of reasonableness and fairness (for this, see article 2, paragraph 2 of the Decree establishing the Restitutions Committee), aligning its opinion with internationally and nationally accepted principles. Various circumstances may be of importance when assessing a dispute, including:

  • the circumstances in which possession of the artwork was lost;
  • the extent to which the former owner or their heirs/successors endeavoured to trace the artwork;
  • the circumstances surrounding the purchase of the artwork by the owner and the investigation to which they subjected it prior to that;
  • the significance of the art work for the party claiming it;
  • the significance of the artwork for the owner (the museum).

This is described in a set of regulations (date of publication 3 March 2014, pdf-file).

The time it takes to handle the case depends on the case itself, the information provided by the parties, the nature and scope of the further investigation and the number of cases the Committee is handling. If a case leads to binding opinion, the case will, in principle, be published in the Committee’s annual report and on the website, with no mention of the parties’ personal details, after the parties have been informed. If the parties object to this publication, the Committee may decide not to do this.

Click here for an overview of the binding opinions issued to date.