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Dutch court removes judge as requested by Ukraine in Scythian gold case

The judge's objectivity was questioned in light of the fact that he represented interests of a Russian company 10 years ago and used to work closely with the lawyers who are now defending interests of Crimean museums in the case
Scythian gold helmet displayed as part of the exhibit called The Crimea - Gold and Secrets of the Black Sea, at Allard Pierson historical museum in Amsterdam AP Photo/Peter Dejong, file
Scythian gold helmet displayed as part of the exhibit called The Crimea - Gold and Secrets of the Black Sea, at Allard Pierson historical museum in Amsterdam
© AP Photo/Peter Dejong, file

AMSTERDAM, October 28. /TASS/. The Amsterdam Court of Appeal has granted the request of Ukraine and disqualified judge Duco Oranje from the Scythian gold case, the court reported Wednesday.

"The demand of the Ukrainian side is satisfied," the court noted.

Kiev succeeded in its second attempt to recuse the judge as Oranje’s objectivity was questioned in light of the fact that he represented interests of a Russian company 10 years ago and used to work closely with the lawyers who are now defending interests of Crimean museums in the case. Kiev’s first attempt failed last year, while reports that Ukraine obtained new evidence emerged this past July.

The Amsterdam Court of Appeal dealt with the request and backed the Ukrainian side. According to the court, Oranje provided partial or incorrect information on a number of issues in the first recusal hearing which undermined trust in the judge and could not guarantee impartiality.

"We think it is the right decision [to recuse the judge]," lawyer Maarten Sanders, who represents Ukraine, told TASS. "As the court said, there are too many things where his testimony appeared to be unreliable. He may not have done it on purpose but it’s too much. So, there is reason for you to have sufficient doubt about his impartiality, and for that reason we need to recuse him."

"We will have to wait for the court in the main proceeding, it will be repositioned, and they will say how the proceedings will continue." the lawyer added. "The [provisional] decision is still there but I assume we will have an opportunity to argue about it if we feel the need. So, the new court may revisit the things that have been decided."

Six years of hearings

The Scythian Gold collection of over 2,000 items was put on view at the Allard Pierson Museum of the University of Amsterdam in February 2014 when Crimea was still part of Ukraine. However, after the peninsula reunited with Russia in March 2014, an uncertainty over the collection arose as both Russia and Ukraine claimed the exhibits. In this regard, the University of Amsterdam suspended the handover until either the dispute is legally resolved or the parties come to terms.

The Central Museum of Tavrida, the Kerch Historical and Cultural Preserve, the Bakhchysarai Historical and Cultural Preserve and the Chersonesus Historical and Cultural Preserve are among the museums whose items remain in Amsterdam. Items provided for the exhibition by a Kiev museum, were returned to Ukraine.

Both Ukraine and Crimea consider the collection to be part of their cultural heritage. The Crimean museums are fearful that if the collection returns to Ukraine they will never get it back, so they demand that the collection be returned to them in accordance with their loan agreement with the Allard Pierson Museum.

In December 2016, the Amsterdam District Court ruled that the Scythian gold treasures be returned to Ukraine. Crimea’s museums filed an appeal against the decision. The Amsterdam Court of Appeal later postponed the verdict in the case, emphasizing the need for the parties to provide additional information, particularly on property rights.