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October 1, 2015

Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi Makes First Appearance at the International Criminal Court in The Hague

Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi at his first appearance hearing
at the International Criminal Court in The Hague ©ICC-CPI
Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, the alleged Islamic radical charged with involvement in the 2012 destruction of historic mausoleums and a mosque in Timbuktu made his first appearance before the single Judge of Pre-Trial Chamber I, Cuno Tarfusser, of the International Criminal Court at the seat of the ICC in The Hague (The Netherlands).  This appearance comes after an arrest warrant was issued for his arrest and transfer to the ICC on Sept. 18, 2015. A copy of the arrest warrant, ICC-01/12-01/15 The Prosecutor v. Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi can be read in French here.

Yesterday’s hearing was held in the presence of the Prosecutor and the Defence Duty Counsel, Mohamed Aouini. The Single Judge verified the identity of the suspect, Mr. Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, and ensured that he was clearly informed of the charges brought against him and of his rights under the Rome Statute of the ICC to be communicated with in a language he fully understands.

Dressed in a suit and tie, Al Faqi Al Mahdi confirmed his identity and replied to Judge Cuno Tarfusser that he preferred to be spoken to in Arabic. In answering to the court, the suspect stated he was ethnic Tuareg, born approximately 40 years ago in Agoune, 100 km west of Timbuktu.   He indicated that he was a "graduate of the teachers' institute in Timbuktu and and a civil servant in education in the Malian government beginning 2011.

At this point in the hearing process, Al Faqi Al Mahdi was not required to enter a plea.  He he made no comment on the current charges against him. 

Mr. Al Faqi Al Mahdi’s trial marks a watershed moment in heritage crime prosecution as it represents the first case of its kind to be brought before the ICC concerning the destruction of buildings dedicated to religion and historical monuments.  Until recently the court, has focused its cases on attacks against individuals.  

Judge Tarfusser has set a date for the confirmation of charges hearing in respect to Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi for 18 January 2016.

The full proceedings of the hearing can be viewed below.