Walk of Truth
Walk of Truth has been registered as a not-for-profit foundation in the Netherlands since 2011. It draws on a broad network of high-level contacts in the worlds of government, museums, cultural agencies including UNESCO and Interpol. It has co-organised debates on responses to cultural crime in the Peace Palace in The Hague and the House of Lords in London. Its founder Tasoula Hadjitofi has 30 years of experience in tracking down and repatriating antiquities looted from Cyprus and sold worldwide.
Walk of Truth believes that the best route to countering – and, in the long term, preventing — the damage wrought in conflict zones is by uniting those who care about our global heritage and by raising awareness of its value and of the responsibility of each of us to protect it. Walk of Truth campaigns for the protection of cultural heritage from violence and the recovery of stolen artworks and antiquities. It aims to complement the work of governments by giving ordinary people, including refugees and victims of war, a role in protecting threatened heritage and identifying stolen treasures.
Walk of Truth as lobbyist
Apart from tackling specific cultural crimes, Walk of Truth has been an important facilitator of debate about responses to the problem of art trafficking, and a campaigner for intelligent changes in the law. It believes that art traffickers should receive exemplary punishment and opposes statutes of limitation that legitimise theft.
In particular, it is urging leading Western democracies to ratify and translate into national law the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in Armed Conflict. The treaty was fully implemented by the Netherlands only in 2007, after Walk of Truth founder Tasoula Hadjitofi drew attention to the omission. In June 2015, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron also promised that Britain would ratify the treaty.
Walk of Truth is adding its voice to calls for the United States to ratify the treaty’s protocols, a change that would send a huge moral signal to warring parties across the world.
Walk of Truth as a resource for researchers on cultural crime
Walk of Truth already possesses an archive of 5,500 documents relating to the struggle against the looting of cultural objects, including priceless icons and mosaics, from Cyprus. These documents shed light on the way international smuggling rings operate. They also show up the differences between legal regimes and police practices in different countries, and their effects on the battle against looting.
Over time, this database will be steadily enriched thanks to crowd-sourced information-gathering by Culture Crime Watchers Worldwide. While rigorously respecting the anonymity of informants who need protection, it will share information that is properly in the public domain and help crime-fighters in one war zone assist their counterparts in other parts of the world. It can become an ever more vital resource for scholars, lawyers and art-lovers who are determined to protect vulnerable and irreplaceable cultural heritage.