October 2012: New Research Role for Claimants
The Centre, formerly working solely on behalf of the Czech Government, has now become a 'public benefit organization'. While the Centre continues to research and document looted cultural assets on behalf of the government, museums, state, regional and municipal bodies, it has expanded its role to provide research for claimants free of charge. A claimant or their representative may now submit a request for a Research Report to be carried out provided that they consent to the conditions under which the services for public benefit are provided. These are that "the information found by the Centre in connection with such a case is provided not only to the applicant but also to state bodies and state research/cultural institutions affected by the particular restitution case." The Report can be used as the basis for a restitution claim and will be provided both to the claimant and to the institution concerned. The Centre will also provide the Report to a Court in the course of any legal proceedings.
Up to the end of 2011 the Centre, set up by the Czech government, was a department of the Institute of Contemporary History of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. By Government resolution no. 683 (14 September 2011) the status of the Centre was changed to that of a 'public benefit organization' which came into existence on 6 February 2012. Its main source of funding remains the state budget of the Czech government through the Czech Ministry of Culture.
While the Centre's role covers the same remit as before, ie researching looted cultural assets on behalf of the government and government instituti, it has expanded its role to provide research for claimants free of charge. A claimant or their representative may now submit a request for a Research Report to be carried out provided that they consent to the conditions under which the services for public benefit are provided.
These are that "The information found by the Centre in connection with such a case is provided not only to the applicant but also to state bodies and state research/cultural institutions affected by the particular restitution case." (See Article 4d below) That is, the Report can be used as the basis for a restitution claim and will be provided both to the claimant and to the institution concerned. The Centre will also provide the Report to a Court in the course of any legal proceedings.
In order for a research report to be requested, a Research Request form must be completed in which detailed personal information of the claimant and of the losses and circumstances of those losses are provided.
Information about the requirements for a Research Request are set out in 'Instructions for Applicants'.The requirements include the following:
1. The applicant must provide a power of attorney to the Centre
2. The applicant must give written consent to the archiving of all documents provided
3. If the applicant is represented by another institution or by a lawyer, s/he must provide a copy of the relevant power of attorney showing that representation..
The Centre states that the power of attorney in their favour is required so that the Centre is authorised to work with the information provided by the claimant and 'for purposes of processing and utilizing all of provided information in connection with the production of a research report'.
The Centre also states that they are prepared to assist in any mediation process, for example, between a Czech museum and a claimant, should the claimant wish.
The full role and remit of the Centre, its collaboration and participation with agencies in the Czech Republic and outside, are set out in Its governing Statutes which were agreed on 27 June 2012. Specifically:
Article 2 of its new statutes state the Purpose of the Centre:
"In accordance with internationally accepted recommendations and the obligations incumbent upon the Czech Republic, the purpose of the Centre is to carry out research into issues connected with the expropriation of cultural assets belonging to victims of World War II and to communicate the findings of this research to state bodies and organizations in the Czech Republic, as well as to regional, municipal and/or private museums, galleries and libraries, and individuals applying for the restitution of looted cultural assets. The Centre collaborates with similar institutions abroad, including those institutions representing applicants for restitution, provided that such applicants meet the conditions stipulated by Act no. 212/2000 Sb."
Article 3 of the new statutes define the Activities of the Centre:
1. The Centre carries out primarily the following activities for public benefit:
a) archive research in the Czech Republic and abroad focusing on previously unresearched stocks,
b) research of inventories and acquisitions records in state museums and galleries,
c) storage of research data in two internal databases (archives database, art database),
d) communication of information to the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding art works and books removed from their country of origin and requiring repatriation,
e) compilation of expert reports for state bodies, collaboration and assistance in international restitution cases,
f) consultancy on individual restitution applications, including mediation,
g) compilation of research reports for restitution applicants on the basis of the form ‘Request for a research report for the purposes of submitting a restitution claim’ in accordance with Act no. 212/2000 Sb. and Act no. 531/2006 Sb.,
h) collaboration with research institutions and cultural institutions in the Czech Republic,
i) provision of documentation and information to the Ministry of Culture and state museums/galleries regarding art works identified in their collections for the purposes of publication in the relevant databases,
j) collaboration with partners abroad, participation in international conferences on relevant topics,
k) publications, lecturing, teaching activities.
Article 4 of the new statutes sets out the Conditions for provision of services of public benefit:
1. The Centre’s services are provided to natural persons and legal entities in the Czech Republic and abroad.
2. The services listed in Article 4 of the Statutes of the Centre shall be provided according to requests directed to the Centre under the following conditions:
a) if so requested by state bodies and state research/cultural institutions, the Centre shall supply these bodies/institutions with information and documentation pertaining to individual restitution cases, and shall issue statements as to whether the restitution applicant meets the conditions stipulated in Act no. 212/2000 Sb.,
b) if so requested by non-state research/cultural institutions in the Czech Republic, the Centre shall provide these institutions with consultancy services pertaining to individual restitution cases falling under the purview of these institutions,
c) if so requested by the organizers of public auctions in the Czech Republic, the Centre shall verify whether the Centre’s databases contain data on the objects to be offered for sale at auction,
d) requests from natural persons shall be dealt with by the Centre provided that the restitution claim of the person in question is supported by evidence in accordance with Act no. 212/2002 and provided that the person in question consents to the conditions under which the services for public benefit are provided. The information found by the Centre in connection with such a case is provided not only to the applicant but also to state bodies and state research/cultural institutions affected by the particular restitution case,
e) in cases of requests from institutions outside the Czech Republic pertaining to a matter of restitution, the institution in question must first provide the Centre with relevant information on the applicant and the art work which the case concerns.
3. The above-mentioned requests must be supported by relevant information, e.g. concerning the applicant, the applicant for restitution (if this person is not the same as the requesting applicant), and the item to which the case pertains.
Documentation Centre for Property Transfers of Cultural Assets of WW II Victims, p.b.o.Čs. Armády 34/828
160 00 Prague 6
Tel. +420 211 152 190
Fax. +420 211 152 192