Protection of cultural heritage

Cultural Heritage Protection



In 2011 ASGP (then CSGP, Centro Studi “Federico Stella” sulla Giustizia penale e la Politica criminale), through its researchers, launched a fruitful collaboration with ISPAC (International Scientific and Professional Advisory Council of the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Program) and CNPDS (the National Centre for Prevention and Social Defense) on the protection of cultural heritage against cultural property trafficking and other offences which are rising increasing alarm, both at a national and at an international level, due to their impact on a value which is of the utmost importance to the entire society, as well as to any human being.


The inherent connection between cultural heritage and individual fundamental rights has made the former a prominent object of interest for the United Nations through the commitment and activity of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). Moreover, it has recently raised the attention of UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), as a consequence of the increasing awareness of the scale, seriousness and transnational nature of the crimes that threaten cultural heritage. An interest that, in the Italian legal system, the Constitution itself endorses and safeguards both in its material and immaterial value, and which is at the core of a complex regulation that has recently been the object of a comprehensive law reforms.


The first outcome of this research was an international conference on "Prevention and Fight against Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property. The National and International Dimension", organized in collaboration with ISPAC and CNPDS, and held at the Catholic University of Milan on the 16th of January 2013, followed by the book "Beni culturali e sistema penale" (a volume which collects a series of essays, both in English and in Italian, on cultural property protection and criminal law). ASGP has since then continued its analysis of criminal law protection for cultural heritage from a national, international, and comparative perspective, also paying specific attention to the criminological study of the phenomenon and to possible future criminal policy developments.



After the comprehensive reform of Italian Cultural Heritage Criminal Law enacted with Law 9 March 2022 n. 22, ASGP, in partnership with ISPAC and the newly constituted UNESCO Chair in Business Integrity and Crime Prevention in the Art and Antiquities Market (“Luigi Vanvitelli” University), has undertaken a long-term analysis and discussion on the new legal framework and its impact and effectiveness, starting with a conference organized in the Catholic University of Milan on 10 March 2022 (watch the full videorecording here).


To promote a broader discussion with international scholars and stakeholders, ASGP also prepared and published an unofficial translation of the new rules, which can be consulted at this link


Besides, since 2019, starting with the international seminar on “Alternative dispute resolution e restituzione di beni culturali: prospettiva negoziale e riparativa in dialogo” (“Alternative Dispute Resolution and Restitution of Cultural Objects: Negotiation and Restorative Justice in Dialogue”), ASGP is exploring the possible contribution of a restorative justice approach to issues of return, restitution and repatriation of disputed cultural objects. The project, which sees also a partnership with the Art Law Centre of Geneva University, will continue with the international conference on “This Has Been’: Art, Memory, Reparation. The Uneven Path towards Implementing the Washington Principles in Europe” of 6 May 2021.







A. Chechi, The return of cultural objects displaced during colonialism. What role for restorative justice, transitional justice and alternative dispute resolution?, in The International Journal of Restorative Justice, 2023 (6)1, pp. 95-118

A. Visconti, Restitution and Return of Cultural Property between Negotiation and Restorative Justice: Time to Bridge the River, in The International Journal of Restorative Justice, 2023 (6)1, pp. 71-94 [Eng.]



A. Visconti, Between “colonial amnesia” and “victimization biases”. Double standards in Italian cultural heritage law, in International Journal of Cultural Property, in International Journal of Cultural Property, 2021 (28) 4, pp. 551-573 - OPEN ACCESS [Eng.]




A. ViscontiFighting Cultural Property Trafficking: The Italian Criminal Law Framework and Its Forthcoming Reform, in Art Antiquity & Law, 2021 (26) 4, pp.317-354 [Eng.]

A. ViscontiThe Illicit Trade in Cultural Objects. From Marginalization to the Current Surge in Attention by Transnational Criminal Policymakers, in N. Boister, S. Gless, F. Jessberger (eds.), Histories of Transnational Criminal Law, Oxford University Press, 2021, pp. 220-235 [Eng.]



E. RomanelliPhotographs as “Cultural Property” under Italian and European Union Law: A Complex Picture, in Santander Art & Culture Law Review, 2019 (5) 2, pp. 135-158 - OPEN ACCESS [Eng.]

A. ViscontiThe Reform of Italian Law on Cultural Property Export and its Implications for the ‘Definitional Debate’: Closing the Gap with the European Union Approach, or Cosmetics? Some Systemic Considerations from a Criminal Law Perspective, in Santander Art & Culture Law Review, 2019 (5) 2, pp. 159-186 - OPEN ACCESS [Eng.]







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