Who gets to keep loots of war,

Dec. 6, 2023 /Conflict and War/ — The question of who gets to keep loots of war is a complex and controversial one, as it often involves competing claims of ownership and the need to balance the interests of various parties. In general, international law and treaties prohibit looting and call for the return of stolen property to its rightful owners. However, there are many practical challenges to implementing this principle, and in some cases, it may be difficult or even impossible to determine who the rightful owners are.

  • International law and treaties: There are several international treaties that prohibit looting, including the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and the Hague Convention of 1954. These treaties establish that the occupying power has a duty to protect property in the occupied territory and must not seize or confiscate any property except for military needs or for the benefit of the civilian population. In addition, the 1949 Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict provides that cultural property must be protected from theft, pillage, and destruction.
  • Competing claims of ownership: When loot is seized or confiscated during a war, there may be competing claims of ownership from various parties, including the original owners, the occupying power, and other individuals or entities who may have acquired the property through subsequent transactions. In these cases, it may be difficult to determine who the rightful owner is.
  • Lack of documentation: In many cases, the destruction of legal documents during a war can make it difficult or even impossible to prove ownership of property. For example, if title deeds or other documentation of ownership have been destroyed, it may be difficult to prove that a particular individual or entity was the rightful owner of a piece of property.

Despite these challenges, there are several mechanisms in place to try to return looted property to its rightful owners. These mechanisms can include:

  • Establishing claims commissions: Claims commissions are bodies that are established after a war to adjudicate claims for the return of looted property. These commissions typically have a mandate to hear evidence from claimants, review relevant documents, and make decisions on whether or not to return property.
  • Establishing restitution funds: Restitution funds are pools of money that are used to compensate victims of looting. These funds are typically financed by the occupying power or by other interested parties.
  • Promoting international cooperation: International organizations, such as UNESCO, play an important role in promoting cooperation between countries to return looted property. UNESCO also provides technical assistance to governments in establishing claims commissions and restitution funds.

In some cases, it may be possible for the legitimate owners of looted property to claim back their assets even if legal documents have been destroyed during a war. This may be possible if they can provide other evidence of ownership, such as witness testimony, photographs, or other documentation. In some cases, governments may also be able to provide assistance to claimants by conducting research on the history of property ownership or by providing access to other relevant records.

The process of reclaiming looted property can be time-consuming and difficult, but it is important to ensure that victims of looting are not deprived of their rightful assets. International law and treaties play an important role in protecting property rights during and after conflicts, and mechanisms are in place to try to return looted property to its rightful owners.