Historian files protest over 'surreal' cultural heritage legal limbo

Simon Cusens, a history researcher, won two auctions for two historical manuscripts only for the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage to exercise his right of preference

The protestor found no avenue in which he could submit his appeal
The protestor found no avenue in which he could submit his appeal

The winner of two auctions for manuscripts from the 1700s and 1800s has filed a judicial protest against the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage after the latter took the manuscripts in question, overriding the auction’s outcome, citing a right of preference.

Simon Cusens, a history researcher, filed the judicial protest in the First Hall of the Civil Court against the Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government, the minister’s Permanent Secretary and the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage this morning.

In the judicial protest, Cusens explains how he had won the auctions for the two manuscripts, one titled Blocco di Malta Notamenti 1798-1799 by Vincenzo Borg and the other set of manuscripts by George Mitrovich dating back to 1818-1878, only for the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage to exercise his right of preference.

He was informed of a right to appeal under Article 51 of the Cultural Heritage Act, which gives the Minister in charge the power to make regulations which would cater for such a situation. But the historian was dismayed to find that no such regulations were ever made.

“The protestant finds himself in the surreal situation where as a person directly affected by the exercise of the Superintendent’s power…whilst given the right to file an appeal, finds that the mechanisms and procedures which would permit him to appeal do not exist.”

The law does not indicate a forum in which he is to submit his appeal, or timeframes or an indication of the requisites for the appeal. “All there is, is a legal limbo,” reads the protest.

This breached the man’s fundamental right to access to a court, he said.

He appealed to the protested parties to immediately provide a legal remedy for him or face a claim for damages.

Lawyers Kris Busietta and Julian Farrugia signed the judicial protest.

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