A Registry for Movable Cultural Property of Significant Importance to Switzerland: Limit to the Cross-Border Movement and Right of Ownership

Carine Simoes


Switzerland now has a federal registry of its movable cultural property of significant importance. This measure is based on the national legislation implementing the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Only Swiss cultural property or property with a close link to Switzerland is targeted. The registry includes, inter alia, archaeological objects, sculptures by Alberto Giacometti, paintings by Ferdinand Hodler, and also a correspondence by Albert Einstein from the period when he lived in Berne and discovered the theory of relativity. The inclusion of cultural property in the federal registry has two major effects: it restricts both cross-border movement and property rights. On one hand, the permanent export of a listed cultural property is prohibited. Although a temporary export may be authorized for research, conservation, or exhibition purposes. On the other hand, registered cultural property becomes res extra commercium: acquisitive prescription, even in good faith, does not apply. As a result, registered cultural property benefits from enhanced protection against permanent loss due to theft and illicit export.

Słowa kluczowe: federal registry (inventory), national treasures, cultural property, Switzerland, export authorization

Botschaftüber die UNESCO-Konvention 1970 und das Bundesgesetzüber den internationalen Kulturgütertransfer (KGTG) [Message o n t he 1970 U NESCO C onvention a nd t he C ultural Property Transfer Act (CPTA)], 21 November 2001, Bundesblatt 2002 505.

Bundesgesetz betreffend die Ergänzung des Schweizerischen Zivilgesetzbuches (Fünfter Teil: Obligationenrecht) [Federal Act on the Amendment of the Swiss Civil Code (Part Five: Swiss Code of Obligations)], 30 March 1911, Systematische Rechtssammlung 220.

Bundesgesetz über den internationalen Kulturgütertransfer [Cultural Property Transfer Act], 20 June 2003, Systematische Rechtssammlung 444.1.

Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export ad Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, 14 November 1970, 823 UNTS 231.

Schweizerisches Zivilgesetzbuch [Swiss Civil Code], 10 December 1907, Systematische Rechtssammlung 210.

Verordnung über das Kulturgüterverzeichnis des Bundes [Cultural Property Registry Ordinance], 21 May 2014, Systematische Rechtssammlung 444.12.

Verordnung über den internationalen Kulturgütertransfer [Cultural Property Transfer Ordinance], 13 April 2005, Systematische Rechtssammlung 444.11.

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