On 7 December 2020 the Committee for the Evaluation of the Restitution Policy for Cultural Heritage Objects from the Second World War, the Kohnstamm Committee, advocated in its report Striving for Justice a recalibration and intensification of the restitution policy by, among other things, changing the assessment framework.
Subsequent to the recommendations of the Kohnstamm Committee of 7 December 2020 (i) the Minister of Education, Culture and Science replaced the existing Decree Establishing the Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications for Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War with effect from 22 April 2021 with a new Decree Establishing the Restitutions Committee. As before, the Restitutions Committee issues advice to the Minister if the Dutch State is the current holder of the item of cultural value, and the Restitutions Committee issues a binding opinion if the current holder is a party other than the Dutch State. The new Decree Establishing the Restitutions Committee now includes the complete framework on the grounds of which the Restitutions Committee assesses both sorts of cases. This assessment framework contains three criteria: original ownership, involuntary loss of possession and acquisition in good faith.
Only the first two criteria apply if the Dutch State is the holder of the item of cultural value. If there is compliance with them, the Restitutions Committee advises the Minister to restitute unconditionally.
If a party other than the Dutch State is the holder, the third criterion – acquisition in good faith – is also considered. If the requirements of original ownership and involuntary loss of possession are met and this holder did not act in good faith (or does not want to plead good faith), there is unconditional restitution.
If the holder did act in good faith, the Restitutions Committee decides on unconditional restitution or on a mediated solution. All the circumstances in the case can be taken into account in the case of a mediated solution, provided that there is always compliance with principle 8 of the Washington Principles ‘to achieve a just and fair solution, recognizing this may vary according to the facts and circumstances surrounding a specific case’.
There are transitional arrangements for applications already under consideration by the Restitutions Committee. If the Dutch State is the current holder, the new assessment framework is applied if it emerges that the applicant agrees. If a party other than the Dutch State is the current holder, the new assessment framework is only applied if both parties agree. There is also a limited option to make a new assessment of applications that have already been handled.
The Restitutions Committee has furthermore changed its procedure, for which it has issued new Regulations. The Restitutions Committee’s new procedure means that it will intensify communication with applicants in the following ways:
- During the handling of applications, in addition to the handling in writing, in principle the Restitutions Committee will also always seek to arrange a hearing.
- At any time during the procedure, the Restitutions Committee can start a discussion with the applicant and holder in order to see whether there are possibilities for reaching a settlement.
- Before the Restitutions Committee issues its advice or binding opinion, it sends parties a draft, to which they can respond.
For further information please contact the secretariat of the Restitutions Committee (firstname.lastname@example.org / +31 (0)70 3765992)