Stat­ues ‘like hu­man re­mains’ to is­lan­ders

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Izzy Lyons

THE Easter Is­land Moai statue at the cen­tre of an in­ter­na­tional row should be “treated like hu­man re­mains”, an ex­pert in in­ter­na­tional law has said.

The statue, known as Hoa Hakananai’a, has been in the Bri­tish Mu­seum since around 1870, af­ter it was taken to Eng­land from the is­land, now gov­erned by Chile, by Richard Pow­ell, cap­tain of HMS Topaze.

But the indige­nous pop­u­la­tion of Easter Is­land, known as the Rapa Nui, have re­quested its re­turn.

The Bri­tish Mu­seum is only con­sid­er­ing a tem­po­rary loan of three to five months as it be­lieves “there is great value in pre­sent­ing ob­jects from across the world” in Lon­don. It has said it hopes to de­velop pos­i­tive col­lab­o­ra­tions with the Rapa Nui com­mu­nity.

Paz Zarate, a le­gal prac­ti­tioner in pub­lic in­ter­na­tional law who reg­u­larly set­tles dis­putes be­fore the In­ter­na­tional Court of Jus­tice, said: “What dis­tin­guishes it is that it’s a claim be­ing made by indige­nous peo­ple. For them, this is not an ob­ject or a statue.

“For them this is a grand­fa­ther and it’s full of spirit and needed back in the is­land to care for the peo­ple. This is fam­ily for them and it helps ex­plain their emo­tional re­ac­tion. This case should be treated like we are deal­ing with hu­man re­mains, not just a statue.”

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