Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran v. The Barakat Galleries Ltd.

EWCA Civ 1374 (2007)

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Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran v. The Barakat Galleries Ltd.

England and Wales Court of Appeal
EWCA Civ 1374 (2007)

Facts

The Barakat Galleries Limited (Barakat) (defendant) possessed 18 antiquities comprising chlorite jars, bowls, and cups (the objects) recently excavated in Iran in violation of Iranian law. Barakat claimed that it had purchased the objects with good title from France, Germany, and Switzerland. The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Iran) (plaintiff) sought to gain ownership of the objects under its 1979 legal bill called Legal Bill Regarding Prevention of Unauthorised Excavations and Diggings (Legal Bill of 1979). The Legal Bill of 1979 essentially prohibited any party except for Iran from obtaining valid title to historical-cultural items excavated or found within Iranian territory. Together, the Legal Bill and the Iranian Constitution served to grant title to Iran of any historical-cultural items that were excavated by anyone in Iranian territory regardless of actual possession by Iran. Iran brought an action against Barakat to recover the objects in an English trial court, claiming ownership of the objects under the Legal Bill of 1979 and its constitution. The trial court found that Iran did not have proprietary title to the objects and denied Iran a right to recover the objects. Iran appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Phillips, C.J.)

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