Ji­hadist jailed for Tim­buktu at­tacks

The Myanmar Times - - World -

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. –

Photo: AFP

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.

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