As a high profile lawyer and wife to one of Hollywood’s most recognisable stars, Mrs Amal Clooney is surely a woman used to getting her own way. It must therefore come as a shock to her that Greece has rejected her proposal to take Britain to court over the Elgin Marbles.
The cash-strapped country snubbed her plans just 48 hours after receiving a 150 page dossier from Amal Clooney and her chambers which urged Athens to drag Britain before the International Criminal Court. The Times has confirmed that money was, for once, not the issue, as a Greek shipping magnate had offered to pay Mrs Clooney’s fees and those of her QC colleagues Geoffrey Robertson and Norman Palmer.
Greece’s former conservative government first approached Amal Alamuddin and her Doughty Street chambers on the matter five years ago. She was asked to draw up a report last October, which has now been presented to Athens.
“The British adhere to international law,” Mrs Clooney advised in the report, warning that this was a “now or never” moment for an international case before adding that the case stood just a 15 per cent chance of victory.
Her husband George’s intervention last October, when he told a press conference that Athens had “a very good case to make about your artifacts,” has also fallen on deaf ears, leaving the current Syriza administration unswayed.
Instead, Nikos Xydakis, the culture minister, has said that Athens will follow a “diplomatic and political” approach to regaining the 5th century BC Marbles, currently ensconced in the British Museum after being rescued from decay and looting by Lord Elgin between 1801 and 1805 at his own cost.
The British Museum maintains that they are the legal owners of the Marbles, which include 75 metres of frieze work and 17 statues from the Parthenon, a temple first dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena which stood upon the Acropolis. The original frieze would have extended to 160 metres, but by the 1800s roughly half of the temple’s decoration had already disappeared.
Lord Elgin, then British ambassador to the Ottoman empire, was passionate about ancient Greek art and transported the marbles to Britain by sea, apparently with the full knowledge and permission of the Ottoman authorities. But modern Greece doesn’t recognise their authority to have done so, and has for many years insisted they be returned.
The trendy power couple that is the Clooneys agree, with Mrs Clooney announcing last October that “Greece has a just cause and it is high time for the British Museum to recognise this and return them.”