The procedure consists of three phases: reception, investigation and recommendation.
The Restitutions Committee notifies the restitution applicant and the RCE (also referred to as the parties) in writing of the receipt of the request for advice from the RCE.
The Restitutions Committee will check whether it is clear on whose behalf the applicant is acting and what the applicant’s connection is to the original owner of the claimed object. It is important that the applicant belongs to the circle of rightful claimants/heirs of that original owner. If the Minister decides to restitute, a notary will establish who all the rightful claimants are.
A letter is then sent to the parties describing the Committee’s procedure. In this letter any questions the Committee has are put to the parties.
Investigation Phase and Overview of the Facts
The Restitutions Committee may instruct the Second World War and Restitution Applications Expertise Centre (the Expertise Centre) to conduct an investigation into the relevant historical facts. This will be necessary in virtually all cases. In the investigation phase the Expertise Centre will first of all inventory the information submitted by the parties. In many cases it emerges that further historical and/or art historical research is needed in order to make it possible to answer questions relevant to giving advice. This concerns research in various archives in the Netherlands and other countries. Information about the original ownership situation, the nature and circumstances of the loss of possession, and the handling of any request submitted after the war for restitution is important.
The relevant information collected during the investigation phase is recorded in an overview of the facts that is sent to the parties for additional information. The Expertise Centre sends the overview of the facts to the Restitutions Committee after these additions have been incorporated.
The Committee gives the parties the opportunity to respond to the overview of the facts and to express their points of view. After this there may be reason to organize a hearing. The Committee may also ask the Expertise Centre to conduct further research if this is necessary for issuing recommendation. The Committee considers the content of the recommendation and the reasons underpinning it during one or more meetings. After the recommendation has been adopted it is signed by the chair and the secretary. The recommendation is then sent to the RCE, after which the Minister of OCW will make a decision about the restitution application. The Committee notifies the applicant of the fact that the recommendation has been issued and that the RCE will inform the applicant of the content of the recommendation. The RCE notifies the applicant of the Minister’s decision and the content of the recommendation within six weeks of receiving the recommendation.
The Committee’s working language is Dutch and it also corresponds with foreign applicants in English.
Length of the Procedure
The time taken to carry out the procedure can vary substantially from case to case. The turnaround time can be longer if the historical investigation is time consuming, for example because of the scope of the restitution application. In addition, procedural reasons often contribute to a longer processing time, for instance if there are several claims to one artwork. It can therefore take two or even more years between the moment that work starts on an application and the moment at which recommendation is issued.
Publication of the Recommendation and Confidentiality of Information
After the RCE has sent the applicant the Minister’s decision about the restitution application and the Committee’s recommendation, the recommendation is published on the Committee’s website and in its annual report, but leaving out personal data. The overview of the facts is not published. The applicant is asked to permit investigation of information in non-public archives. The Committee takes great care with confidential data.