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Memory of Mankind
July 13, 2006 10:18 PM   Subscribe

A US court has decided that Persian antiquities on loan to the University of Chicago can be confiscated and sold to compensate American victims of Hamas violence in Israel.
posted by thirteenkiller (80 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
what??
posted by farishta at 10:25 PM on July 13, 2006


Oh, wow.

Historically, the Saffavid Persians were Shiite, ne? Isn't Hamas primarily a Sunni (and Arab) group?

I mean, as if that mattered! Ha!
posted by absalom at 10:28 PM on July 13, 2006


I second farishta...what the hell?
posted by Jimbob at 10:36 PM on July 13, 2006


This seems only fair. Remember when the World Court fined the US for terrorism? Well, they paid up, right?
posted by pompomtom at 10:36 PM on July 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


It seems like the University recognizes the historical importance of the tablets. Maybe cooler heads will prevail and everyone would step back from politicizing these artifacts?

"Although priceless historical pieces, scholars say the tablets would have limited value in the art market."

I think this would serve as a deterrence from people who might want to sell them.
posted by phyrewerx at 10:37 PM on July 13, 2006


"They are a kind of memory of mankind. They are not a financial source to be used in courts," he said."
posted by Jimbob at 10:38 PM on July 13, 2006


How does that even make sense?
posted by bshort at 10:39 PM on July 13, 2006


It doesn't. This is one of the stupidest things I've ever heard.
posted by homunculus at 10:43 PM on July 13, 2006


Previously, all the US assets of the Palestinian Authority were frozen in a court ruling in favor of this same family. I don't know if this is the same case or a new lawsuit.
posted by thirteenkiller at 10:52 PM on July 13, 2006


OK, simple: Iran didn't show up in court; the University of Chicago (a third party as far as a judge is concerned) pissed off the court by asserting it should argue for Iran even though it didn't really have the right to; judgment for plaintiff by default for over $400 million. The clay tablets are only a part of the overall case, where hearings continue. Lesson: Show up to your court dates, peoples, when someone tries to sue you for over $400 million and a magistrate judge has already ruled against you.
posted by nj_subgenius at 10:54 PM on July 13, 2006


What the hell? Is anyone actually paying attention over there, or is the US kinda like a speeding car without a driver?
posted by nightchrome at 10:54 PM on July 13, 2006


My initial reaction is dismay and outrage. Then I realize I'm probably missing the larger story. The fact that its a Reuters link tends to confirm this latter feeling.
posted by vacapinta at 10:59 PM on July 13, 2006


From Wiki:

In 2004, a federal court in the United States found Hamas liable in a civil lawsuit for the 1996 murders of Yaron and Efrat Ungar near Bet Shemesh, Israel. Hamas has been ordered to pay the families of the Ungars $116 million.[57] On July 5, 2004, the court issued a default judgment against the PNA and the PLO regarding the Ungars' claim that the Palestinian Authority and the PLO provide safe haven to Hamas.

Here's another related article.
posted by thirteenkiller at 11:02 PM on July 13, 2006


nj_subgenius' link says the suit is on behalf of victims of a different attack, a mall bombing. The Radio Free Europe story mentions the mall bombing too. Maybe Reuters is wrong in connecting this lawsuit to the Ungar case.
posted by thirteenkiller at 11:12 PM on July 13, 2006


WHAT?
posted by blacklite at 11:14 PM on July 13, 2006


Iran didn't show up in court;

Why should Iran show up in a US court? Hello? Jurisdiction?
posted by bshort at 11:18 PM on July 13, 2006


That's what I was thinking bshort. Especially since the US itself is a bit slow on the support of laws that reach across borders.
posted by Jimbob at 11:20 PM on July 13, 2006


Well, I remember when I had to sell my grandfather's watch to repay the grandchildren of victims of the Golem in Prague.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:25 PM on July 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


That's utterly idiotic.

By the same logic, anyone (with the money to pay for the lawyers up front) could sue Iran or the PLO or Al Queda for 'emotional distress' or some bullshit caused by terrorism and win by default due to the unlikely appearance of the defendant in a US court.

There's no real legitimate reason for a US court to hear a case involving a soverign nation or an transnational terrorist organization. Any judicial descision in favor of Iran or Hamas could not possibly be enforced without the consent of the Us executive.

This strikes me as a diplomatic pissing match where no one wins except the lawyers.
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:37 PM on July 13, 2006


David Strachman is a professional litigator. Blanche Manning, the judge in question, is no fundie clone (scroll down to 'left-wing circuit court judge') and no friend of corporatocracy. But a judge is going to take a very dim view of an inept defense, or none at all. Strachman's case for the Ungar family does have holes in it. But that's not the point if you don't show up as a defendant. The reporting of the case on the interwebs is pretty sketchy and 13killer is sorta newfiltering. Guess I have to find out the hard way? Better research next time.
posted by nj_subgenius at 11:43 PM on July 13, 2006


...and Daniel Pipes is an asshole, but you can see where this goes. Fresh meat for the hate Iran grinder unless the news media look closer.
posted by nj_subgenius at 11:53 PM on July 13, 2006


Better research next time.

Listen, I wasn't accusing Blanche Manning of being a "fundie clone" or whatever, and the articles make it pretty obvious that David Strachman is a lawyer. So, besides that irrelevant stuff, you think I should have posted a pdf with information already covered in the articles I linked and some dorky Zionist's blog entry?
posted by thirteenkiller at 11:56 PM on July 13, 2006


Is anyone actually paying attention over there, or is the US kinda like a speeding car without a driver?

It's more like a speeding pickup truck driven by some pinhead trying to steer with his foot. And here comes the fire hydrant!

I hope other countries stop lending to institutions in the US -- and start taking back everything they've loaned already, just in case. The US can't be trusted to return what it borrows. "We are so sorry, but because of a recent ruling under the JINGO act, a man in Des Moines who burned his lips on french fries now owns your twenty best Renoirs. Sorry, France."
posted by pracowity at 12:04 AM on July 14, 2006


Well, no. I was just looking at the reactions. I had the same WTF reaction too, then I looked harder. The worst thing you could get from this is 'newsfilter', and that's not so bad. Reason I posted the PDF was because of how tenuous the case by Strachman was and that the input was solely from the plaintiff's (I think) questionable sources. The good news is without your post I wouldn't have been interested enough to look further, so thanks for that.
posted by nj_subgenius at 12:12 AM on July 14, 2006


A lot of the news articles really WTFish. I think we might be dealing with two separate cases, both handled by Strachman and both apparently targeting Iran. Some articles talk about the Ungar murder as the basis for the lawsuit, and some talk about the mall bombing. Confusing.
posted by thirteenkiller at 12:20 AM on July 14, 2006


In other news, families of US servicemen killed by insurgents in Iraq sue; US courts order that one thousand quintillion dollars worth of damages must be paid to the US government in oil revenue.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:21 AM on July 14, 2006


Well, that's the last time anyone's going to loan us artifacts.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:45 AM on July 14, 2006


Artefacts? After this I'm not going to loan you guys $10.
posted by Hogshead at 12:57 AM on July 14, 2006


That's the most idiotic thing I've ever heard. Some judges can be idiots.
posted by delmoi at 1:35 AM on July 14, 2006


I'm suing Kim Jong Ill. I'll take payment of one shipping container of counterfit $20s and 10 pounds of U235.
posted by delmoi at 1:41 AM on July 14, 2006


Cultural barbarism. Nothing less.
posted by bouncebounce at 1:42 AM on July 14, 2006


This is wrong on so many levels. Those artefacts belong to the people of Iran and are an irreplaceable part of their history, they're not simply assets like oil, gold, or bonds used to settle debts. Furthermore, they were on loan to an academic institution in good faith with an understanding that they'd be returned. I certainly hope other countries learn something from this fiasco and don't loan the US any of their property, much less their priceless national treasures.

I suppose the billions of dollars of Iran's frozen assets still held by the U.S. weren't enough to pay for a Palestinian organization's crimes that took place in Israel. I'm not denying that Iran has aided some Palestinian groups that have taken innocent American and Israeli lives, but hasn't the U.S. directly and indirectly caused much more death and destruction in Central America as recently as the 80's? Just make sure you don't loan any American artefacts to El Salvador or Nicaragua.

The fucking hypocrisy.
posted by Devils Slide at 2:17 AM on July 14, 2006


Nicaragua

1979

Ruthless, repressive, pro-US and US-backed dictatorship of Somoza overthrown. New government 'Sandinistas' formed. The Sandinistas make dramatic improvements in nutrition, health care (reducing infant mortality to a third of the rate previously) and literacy (increasing literacy from 25% to 80%).

An Oxfam report entitled 'The Threat of a Good Example' (which sums up precisely the threat posed to the US by Nicaragua) on the Sandinistas concludes ' in Oxfam's experience of working in seventy-six developing countries, Nicaragua was to prove exceptional in the strength of that government commitment [to meeting the basic needs of the poor majority]'. This should be contrasted with Nicaragua's neighbours at the time (Guatemala and El Salvador) who, as this article reports, had 'military dictatorships responsible for the sheer institutionalisation of state terror, installed and propped up by the US. Tens of thousands of civilians were regularly slaughtered by government death squads trained and armed by the CIA. The vast majority of the populations were impoverished'.

1983

The CIA responds, under Reagan, by creating a paramilitary force to 'stop the flow of military supplies from Nicaragua to El Salvador' (despite little evidence of this actually occuring). The force grows to around 50,000 in the late 80s, and throughout the 80s mounts raids on Nicaragua, attacking schools and medical clinics, raping, kidnapping, torturing, massacres, mining harbours etc etc.

1984

Reagan publicly claims to stop aid to 'contras', however continues aid despite a congress ban, leading to Iran-contra scandal.

1984

Elections are held in Nicaragua and Sandinistas win with 67% of the vote. International observer teams comment that they are the fairest elections to have been held in Latin America in many years.

1984

Associated Press discloses a 90 page CIA-produced training manual called "Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare" giving advice for the contras on political assassinations, blackmailing, mob violence, kidnappings and blowing up public buildings, and calling for 'implicit terror'.

1986 ICJ case summary

Nicaragua takes the case to the World Court in The Hague, who rule in their favour, ordering America to put a stop to its crime in Nicaragua and to pay massive reparations. America ignores the World Court's ruling, not paying a cent and escalating the war.

1987 Timeline

ICJ decides on the amount owed by the US to Nicaragua - $17 billion. US continues to ignore ruling.

1987 UN resolution

UN General Assembly calls on US to comply with ICJ's judgement. US continues to ignore ruling. Call repeated in 1988.

1988 Timeline

Reagan announces that he will no longer seek military aid for the Contras.

1990 Timeline

Elections are held in Nicaragua, and the Sadistinas lose to the US-backed Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, after the US spends $9 million on her election campaign (including bribing the voters to vote for her).

Nicaragua is crippled by highest per capita debt in the world. If the US were simply to honour the World Court ruling, the debt would be paid off three-fold.

posted by Devils Slide at 2:21 AM on July 14, 2006


Devil's Slide, the problem is that the decision was made by a non-US court. The extra-territorial application of convenient laws is exclusively a US prerogative.

...and yes, I know I'm sounding like a bitter anti-American, but jeez...
posted by pompomtom at 3:37 AM on July 14, 2006


Seems like there's been a big fat spike of anti-Americanism on MeFi recently.
posted by fleacircus at 3:59 AM on July 14, 2006


Maybe there's a reason.
posted by adamvasco at 4:25 AM on July 14, 2006


How about a nice bowl of
WHAT.
THE.
FUCK.
JUDICIAL SYSTEM?
posted by moonbird at 4:33 AM on July 14, 2006


I still don't understand how you can start a US court case to sue a terrorist group for doing something not on US soil. This $400 million ruling makes no sense, why wasn't the case thrown out at the start?
posted by mathowie at 4:34 AM on July 14, 2006


Seems like there's been a big fat spike of anti-Americanism on MeFi recently.
Well, we'd stop acting like world-class assholes and more like the shining light of democracy were supposed to be...
posted by Thorzdad at 4:40 AM on July 14, 2006


Seems like there's been a big fat spike of anti-Americanism on MeFi recently.

Seems like there's been a big fat spike of America turning into a proto-fascist travesty recently.
posted by EarBucket at 4:48 AM on July 14, 2006


Seems like there's been a big fat spike of anti-Americanism on MeFi recently.

Seems like there's been a big fat spike of America turning into a proto-fascist travesty recently.
posted by EarBucket at 4:48 AM on July 14, 2006


Argh. Twice for emphasis.
posted by EarBucket at 4:48 AM on July 14, 2006


America does some of the dumbest shit on the planet. This is so random.
posted by chunking express at 4:58 AM on July 14, 2006


Earbucket: MeFi's software does that sometimes. Probably not your fault. (the repeat). It's happened to me at least once.

This judgment makes absolutely no sense. It's a political statement by a judge, not justice. The unintended consequences if this actually happens are likely to be fairly profound. Subtle, but profound.
posted by Malor at 5:02 AM on July 14, 2006


This has happened every so often with Russian emigres seeking judgements against the current government for not returning property lost during the Civil War. For example. There was also, more recently, the seizure of Russian paintings in Switzerland, prompted by the Russian government's failure to pay debts owed to a Swiss company by the Soviet government. I don't know the results of the first case, but in the second, despite a judgment in the company's favor allowing the art to be confiscated, the Swiss government let it leave the country to avoid diplomatic incident.
posted by posadnitsa at 5:18 AM on July 14, 2006


What the hell? Is anyone actually paying attention over there, or is the US kinda like a speeding car without a driver?
posted by nightchrome at 1:54 AM EST on July 14


Not exactly, but let's just say we shifted gears in our Brain Drain machine. Is there anything we can't piss on?

And shouldn't Iraqi citizens be entitled to sue for possession of all our military cack in their country, as compensation for bombing the mother-loving fuck out of them? Surely they could get some money for it.
posted by Busithoth at 5:30 AM on July 14, 2006


More relevantly, will the families of American peace protestors killed by the Israeli government (such as the girl run over with a bulldozer) now be able to sue Israel for millions of dollars? (If I were her family, I think I would, just to make the point.)

Iran didn't show up in court

This made me laugh - it's not just the jurisdiction issue (which is a serious point), but how is a country going to show up to court? And since when can people sue and ENTIRE COUNTRY? Naming a leader or an office - that I can understand, but a country?

Someone ought to sue the US over their softwood lumber idiocy - it's caused great hardship up in Canada. Not the US trade officials or the decisionmaker or anything - just the entire American people.
posted by jb at 5:51 AM on July 14, 2006


I'm still thinking about fitting a country into a courtroom. I mean, I think you could get Tehran in, but you'd definitely have to leave the mountains outside.
posted by jb at 6:25 AM on July 14, 2006


Congress amended the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FAQ) in 1996 to allow suits against countries listed as state sponsors of terrorism.

Background on suing Iran: in March 2006 the Bush Administration blocked a group of former American hostages from suing Iran. They lost a 2003 suit because the agreement that freed them blocked lawsuits.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:38 AM on July 14, 2006


Wow. You can sue a country. Cool. I want to be innovative and sue a concept. I'm suing boredom for damages. If boredom does not show up and pay, I'm gonna have Celine Dion's assets confiscated.
posted by qvantamon at 6:45 AM on July 14, 2006


nj_subgenius writes "Lesson: Show up to your court dates, peoples, when someone tries to sue you for over $400 million and a magistrate judge has already ruled against you."

I'll be sure to follow this advise when some dumbass 16 countries and half way around the globe sues me. Did someone actually travel to Iran to serve Iran?

fleacircus writes "Seems like there's been a big fat spike of anti-Americanism on MeFi recently."

Really, I can't for the life of me figure out why.
posted by Mitheral at 7:16 AM on July 14, 2006


The fuck?
posted by Artw at 7:24 AM on July 14, 2006


this is insane.
posted by amberglow at 7:28 AM on July 14, 2006


Why should Iran show up in a US court? Hello? Jurisdiction?

That's absolutely why. The property in question is in the U.S. Therefore, U.S. law applies, not Iranian law. And the fact that Iran ignored that the U.S. has jurisdiction has nothing to do with the ICC.

I still don't understand how you can start a US court case to sue a terrorist group for doing something not on US soil. This $400 million ruling makes no sense, why wasn't the case thrown out at the start?

It probably killed a U.S. citizen. I'm pretty sure that the U.S. claims jurisdiction over terrorism that kills U.S. citizens, no matter where it occurs. Government agents, too.

America does some of the dumbest shit on the planet. This is so random.

Just keep pretending that Canada is superior in every way.
posted by oaf at 7:36 AM on July 14, 2006


Interesting. I wonder if Iran will sue the US and UK for overthrowing its democratically elected government in 1953? Oh, wait. The law only applies to us when it means we'll be getting paid or bashing some smaller nation.
posted by SaintCynr at 7:42 AM on July 14, 2006 [2 favorites]


oaf writes "The property in question is in the U.S. "

Exactly what crime did the property commit?

oaf writes "Just keep pretending that Canada is superior in every way."

Oh we're not. Off the top of my head:
  1. Number of brown people bombed
  2. number of people serving life sentences for minor crimes (3 strikes laws)
  3. Severity of drug laws
  4. Percentage of population in gaol
I'm sure you can think of others.
posted by Mitheral at 7:55 AM on July 14, 2006


What the fuck??
posted by davebushe at 7:59 AM on July 14, 2006


Mithreal: You are ahead in the number of people who, regardless of merit, blame the United States for everything wrong with the world. And we're ahead with Kyoto compliance.

Exactly what crime did the property commit?

But you're apparently behind in understanding the difference between criminal and civil proceedings.
posted by oaf at 8:11 AM on July 14, 2006


oaf writes "But you're apparently behind in understanding the difference between criminal and civil proceedings."

OK, rephrase: What wrong did the property perpetrate? As far as I can tell the artifacts weren't even peripherally involved in any wrong doing.

oaf writes "You are ahead in the number of people who, regardless of merit, blame the United States for everything wrong with the world."

True, but we were talking about ways that the US was superior to Canada.
posted by Mitheral at 8:20 AM on July 14, 2006


If the tablets are apparently so worthless on the open market, maybe somebody ought to buy them and return them.

Of course, attempting to return them to Iran at that point would probably get you an all expenses paid trip to Gitmo. Providing material support to a state-sponsor of terrorism and all.
posted by rockabilly_pete at 8:20 AM on July 14, 2006


Hmmmm. Given that Al Queada is to the United States (must drive the Russians out of Afghanistan) as Hamas is to Iran (must drive the Israelis out of Lebanon) this sets a precedent that, well, I can't say I'm real happy with, what with having a blue passport and all.

If Al Queada does something to Canada and I later go on a trip there can they confiscate all my stuff to compensate the victims?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:23 AM on July 14, 2006


What wrong did the property perpetrate? As far as I can tell the artifacts weren't even peripherally involved in any wrong doing.

They are assets that can be seized. I can't tell whether you're actually ignorant or just faking it—it's not different in Canada.

True, but we were talking about ways that the US was superior to Canada.

You sure as hell weren't.
posted by oaf at 8:23 AM on July 14, 2006


If Al Queada does something to Canada and I later go on a trip there can they confiscate all my stuff to compensate the victims?

Does your stuff belong to the government?
posted by oaf at 8:24 AM on July 14, 2006


Ya know who's dumb? Any country who doesn't get military funding from the US, overtly or covertly, who isn't actively seeking to build nukes in order to protect themselves from this type of coded insanity.

I'm looking at you, Lebanon.
posted by bardic at 8:34 AM on July 14, 2006


oaf: So, let's say that in the case of the U.S. soldier who raped and killed a family in Iraq that a relative in Pakistan sues the U.S. in a Pakistani court for damages. The court awards the relative $100 million in damages. Then you would have no problem with the court seizing $100 million in US military equipment that's on Pakistani soil?
posted by dripdripdrop at 8:53 AM on July 14, 2006


They'd need to sue the soldier, unless the military gave him orders to rape and kill.
posted by oaf at 9:30 AM on July 14, 2006


I look forward, one day, to an aggrieved party insisting that the USA put the Declaration Of Independence up for sale in order to reclaim costs. After all, if priceless historical artifacts can be considered mere assets then why not?
posted by kaemaril at 9:35 AM on July 14, 2006


oaf, the soldier can't be sued. The US has ensured that no soldier and no civilian contractor is liable for anything they do while in Iraq. So, impossible suggestion.
posted by bardic at 9:43 AM on July 14, 2006


The US has ensured that no soldier and no civilian contractor is liable for anything they do while in Iraq.

The U.S. now dictates Pakistani law?
posted by oaf at 9:45 AM on July 14, 2006


No, it sits there looking smug and going 'You don't really want to jerk us around, you tiny little pissant country'.

IOW, standard US policy.
posted by kaemaril at 9:50 AM on July 14, 2006


Oh come off it. You know damn well there's a double standard here--if a US court says a foreign country has to pay, it's a glaring fault on the part of the other country. But when a US soldier does something criminal and despicable, there's a boatload of JAG lawyers lined up to ensure that no proceeding will go anywhere.

So hypothetically, a Pakistani family sues the US and wins in their court. Think they'll ever see a dime?

Shorter: The US has been actively trashing any notion of a "world court" ever since 9/11. Don't expect the rest of the world to shed a tear when a judge issues a hypocritical and jingoistic decision like this one.
posted by bardic at 9:50 AM on July 14, 2006


So hypothetically, a Pakistani family sues the US and wins in their court. Think they'll ever see a dime?

How many Americans have sued other countries and won in the U.S., and actually collected? It's probably not as many as you think.

But when a US soldier does something criminal and despicable, there's a boatload of JAG lawyers lined up to ensure that no proceeding will go anywhere.

I do have a problem with the military closing ranks around its own. Keep in mind that the Iran case involves people who are not members of a state army, but a terrorist group that aims to kill civilians.

Don't expect the rest of the world to shed a tear when a judge issues a hypocritical and jingoistic decision like this one.

What evidence did the defense present in this case? What arguments did they make?
posted by oaf at 9:55 AM on July 14, 2006


bardic: Don't expect the rest of the world to shed a tear when a judge issues a hypocritical and jingoistic decision like this one.

????

If I were a museum curator from anywhere outside the US who had stuff on loan to a US museum I'd be on the phone demanding my stuff back right now. Of course, I'd not be crying so that might not count ...
posted by kaemaril at 9:57 AM on July 14, 2006


One of the articles linked in the comments mentioned that the US government sided with Iran in this case. It's important to remember that one judge's decision does not necessarily reflect the views of the federal government.
posted by thirteenkiller at 10:03 AM on July 14, 2006


Totally outrageous decision.
posted by cell divide at 10:15 AM on July 14, 2006


If this goes through, I'd expect that foreign traveling exhibits will pretty much disappear from our museums. On the other side, we're pillaging and raping and looting like nobody's business, so we'll just liberate notable objects from the people who are currently imprisoning them.
posted by Sukiari at 12:49 PM on July 14, 2006


Oh man, If I was Zahi Hawass I'd pull out of the New US Tut tour so damn fast just in spite, and SAY that. That man is bulldog of perserving a nations cultural heritage and the rights that come witht hat, including demanding pieces illegally exported be returned once rediscovered. And I'd be right behind him. This is BS.
posted by Dome-O-Rama at 1:48 PM on July 14, 2006


Shit like this is what you'd expect from a Burmese overlord, not the Supreme Court of a supposedly civilized first-world nation.

Grow the fuck up already, USA.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:07 PM on July 15, 2006


Speaking of Burmese overlords...
posted by homunculus at 7:41 PM on July 15, 2006


B-b-b-but I thought the judicial system was only supposed to enable gay marriage and keep abortion legal!
posted by Krrrlson at 8:21 PM on July 15, 2006


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