Jihadist jailed for Timbuktu attacks
WAR crimes judges jailed a Malian jihadist for nine years for demolishing Timbuktu’s fabled shrines, a landmark ruling seen as a warning that destroying mankind’s heritage will not go unpunished.
In the first such case to focus on cultural destruction as a war crime, the International Criminal Court found Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi guilty of directing attacks on the UNESCO World Heritage Site during the jihadist takeover of northern Mali in 2012.
Mr Mahdi “supervised the destruction and gave instructions to the attackers” who took pickaxes and bulldozers to the centuries-old shrines, presiding judge Raul Pangalangan told the tribunal.
“The chamber unanimously finds that Mr Mahdi is guilty of the crime of attacking protected sites as a war crime,” he added during an hourlong hearing at the tribunal based in The Hague.
ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, whose office had asked for a 9 to 11 year sentence, said it will signal to perpetrators that destroying cultural heritage is “a serious crime”.
“It is a war crime and they will be held accountable for destroying these important sites,” she told AFP.
Some 55 places around the world are on UNESCO’s list of endangered cultural heritage sites.
Handed over to the ICC in late 2015, Mr Mahdi, dressed in a sober grey suit and blue-striped tie, listened intently, but made no comment as sentence was passed.
The landmark verdict by the ICC is also the first arising out of the conflict in Mali, and the first time a jihadist has sat in the dock.
In an unprecedented move, Mr Mahdi last month pleaded guilty to the single war crimes charge of “intentionally directing” attacks on nine of Timbuktu’s mausoleums and the centuries-old door of the city’s Sidi Yahia mosque. –
Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda works at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague on September 27 during Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi’s sentencing for destroying Timbuktu’s shrines.