Treat Easter Island Moai statue at British Museum like human remains says international

The Easter Island dispute follows several other claims the British Museum face, including returning the Elgin Marbles to Greece and the Benin Bronzes to Nigeria.Ms Zarate, who studied her doctorate in international law at the University of Oxford, said: “You can say that the Greeks are attached to the Elgin Marbles, that the Nigerians are attached to the Benin Bronzes, but it’s not the same degree of attachment as it is for the Easter Islanders.“Out of all the 900 Moais built by the Rapa Nui people, this is the finest of all.”Felipe Ward, Chile’s National Treasures Minister, said: “I do agree that this moai is so much more than an object. A long time ago, when someone important died, it was built by the Rapa Nui community even with the physical features of the deceased.“I am confident that this campaign and also the conversations that we had with the British Museum authorities, are heading in the right direction.”The British Museum said it hoped to  develop positive collaborations with the Rapa Nui community. Easter Island’s Moai statue should be “treated like human remains”, an expert in international law has said.The Moai statue, named the Hoa Hakananai’a, has been in the possession of the British Museum since around 1870, after it was taken to England from the Chilean island by Richard Powell, captain of HMS Topaze.But the indigenous population of Easter Island, known as the Rapa Nui, have requested it is returned.The British Museum are only considering a temporary loan of three to five months as they believe “there is great value in presenting objects from across the world” in London.Paz Zarate, a legal practitioner in public international law who has experience of cases before the International Court of Justice, said: “The case of the Easter Island Moai statue is different from other cases British museums are facing. 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 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. In Western culture, we treat human remains with reverence because this is how we honour the past of our ancestors. In other cultures, they have other ways of honouring the dead. For them, this is their way.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.

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