Elgin Marbles won’t be returned to Greece as Euro court throws out first-ever legal bid

The Parthenon Marbles, a collection of stone objects, inscriptions and sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles © Dylan Martinez
The first legal bid to have the priceless Elgin Marbles returned from the UK to their native Greece has been ejected from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The court found that because the removal of the 2,500-year-old marbles from Greece’s Parthenon temple happened over 150 years ago, it did not have the power to rule on the issue.

The collection of statues and decorations was originally acquired by the British Earl of Elgin, who in 1816 sold them to the British government when he got into financial difficulties.

He claimed to have a legal document from the then-ruling Ottoman Empire allowing him to take them. Campaigners say the claim is not valid.

The ruling, which was made in June, said: “The Court notes that the marbles were removed from Greece in the early 19th century.

In order to bring the matter within the temporal jurisdiction of the Court, the applicant has sought to rely on the refusal of the United Kingdom to enter into mediation with Greece concerning the return of the marbles and the continuing refusal to return the marbles.

Given the “removal … occurred some 150 years before the Convention was drafted and ratified by the respondent state” the complaint “appeared to be inadmissible.

The marbles currently reside in the British Museum and are not the only imperial acquisition whose return has been demanded.

In July 2015 Labour MP Keith Vaz called on then-Prime Minister David Cameron to return the giant diamond which adorns the Queen’s crown to its native India.

When first mined the diamond was a gargantuan 793 carats. It changed hands between various invading powers before ending up in the possession of the British after they confiscated it from the Sikh Empire.

After arriving in Britain in 1850, Queen Victoria had it reduced to 108 carats. Today it is the centerpiece of Queen Elizabeth’s crown. Legend has it the diamond’s male owners are subject to a curse as it can only be worn by gods or women.