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ERIC Number: EJ969123
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Mar-6
Pages: N/A
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-1931-1362
Lawsuits by Victims of Terrorism Imperil Archaeological Studies
Schmidt, Peter
Chronicle of Higher Education, Mar 2011
In lawsuits pending in federal courts in Boston and Chicago, Americans harmed by terrorist attacks linked to the Islamic Republic of Iran are asserting claim to artifacts they believe belong to that nation, in their quest to win more than $4-billion in damages. The institutions that hold the artifacts, which include Harvard University and the University of Chicago, have been joined by an unlikely set of allies--the Iranian government, the U.S. Justice Department, and the National Iranian American Council--in arguing against using the archaeological finds to settle the lawsuits' claims. The lawsuits are expected to drag on for several more years, and some legal analysts familiar with them believe the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually be asked to weigh in, especially since the disputes involve questions related to the federal government's power to grant or deny foreign nations immunity from having their assets here seized. The confiscation of artifacts could set a troubling precedent, some scholars say. Other countries might become reluctant to lend cultural objects to institutions in the United States, and the United States could become more vulnerable to having its own cultural objects seized when they are on loan in foreign countries. The controversy appears to be putting a damper on efforts by U.S. institutions to borrow cultural materials from other nations. Jennifer Anglim Kreder, a professor of law at Northern Kentucky University and a co-author of an analysis of the litigation in a forthcoming issue of the "Washington University Global Studies Law Review," says the loss of access to such artifacts would hamper American universities' efforts to teach students about the Middle East. Thomas Fortune Fay, a lawyer representing one set of plaintiffs' families of the victims of the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, argues that his clients are owed compensation for damages. Some claims against relics at the University of Chicago, by Americans affected by a 1997 bombing attack in Jerusalem, are pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Among the questions at issue there is whether a lower court erred in handing down a default judgment against Iran after its government claimed immunity from such legal proceedings and did not show up in court to defend itself.
Chronicle of Higher Education. 1255 23rd Street NW Suite 700, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 800-728-2803; Tel: 202-466-1000; Fax: 202-452-1033; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Iran; United States