This paper discusses the topic of restitution claims for museum objects appropriated during the colonial-era as a result of an armed conflict between a European and a non-European state. My starting point is the observation that there is a scarcity of feasible legal routes through which former colonial countries can seek the restitution of such objects. To shed light on why this might be so, the paper looks at the history of international law and asks: What are the historical sources of what some lawyers identify today as an absence of judicial redress for such claims? How is the nineteenth century international legal doctrine reflected in contemporary talks about these objects' restitution? The argument advanced by this paper is that the lack of legal recourse does not essentially originate in the absence of an international norm on war plunder and restitution at the time these objects were seized, but in the inferior status that non-European states had under international law at the time. Finally, the paper shows that this historical legacy has not been completely overcome. When seeking the return of this property through legal means, still today many claimants find themselves to be powerless before the law. The paper concludes by suggesting that extra-judicial dispute resolutions could be used in cultural property restitution cases as a way to recognise and transcend these historical power disparities.