Showing posts with label Mali. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mali. Show all posts

September 27, 2016

ICC Ruling: Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi sentenced to 9 years in prison for destruction of the fabled shrines of Timbuktu

Arrested in Niger and transferred to The Hague in September 2015 Ahmad al Faqi al Mahdi, a one time member of the Mali-operating Islamic fundamentalist group Ansar ed-Din (best translated as guardians of the faith) stood before the Trial Chamber VIII of the International Criminal Court (ICC) today while it delivered its judgment in the case of The Prosecutor v. Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi.   During today's hearing, the Chamber unanimously found Mr Al Mahdi guilty beyond reasonable doubt as a co-perpetrator of the war crime consisting in intentionally directing attacks against religious and historic buildings in Timbuktu, Mali. 

During a 45 minute long hearing presented in its entirety below, the three-judge Chamber sentenced Mr Al Mahdi to nine years imprisonment with a deduction of time served for the days in which he has been incarcerated following his arrest in Nigeria on the ICC warrant issued on 18 September 2015.   According to ICC spokesman spokesperson Fadi ElAbdallah Al Mahdi will not serve out his sentence in the detention centre at the ICC in the Hague. He will “serve his sentence in a national establishment of a state which has agreed to receive the convicted.  Decisions on this issue will be made in due course by the ICC in dialogue with relevant states.” 

According to ICC documents Mr.  al-Mahdi was appointed to head the Hisbah (the manners brigade) in April 2012 which he oversaw until September 2012. The Hisbah was in charge of regulating the morality of the people of Timbuktu, and of suppressing and repressing anything perceived by the occupying forces to constitute a visible vice.

Between June 30, 2012 and around July 11, 2012 al-Mahdi and his co-perpetrators first attacked and destroyed:

­čĆ║ The Sidi Mahamoud Ben Omar Mohamed Aquit Mausoleum
­čĆ║ The Sheikh Mohamed Mahmoud Al Arawani Mausoleum
­čĆ║The Sheikh Sidi El Mokhtar Ben Sidi Mouhammad Al Kabir Al Kounti Mausoleum
­čĆ║ The Alpha Moya Mausoleum
­čĆ║ The Sheikh Mouhamad El Micky Mausoleum
­čĆ║ The Sheikh Abdoul Kassim Attouaty Mausoleum
­čĆ║ The Sheikh Sidi Ahmed Ben Amar Arragadi Mausoleum
­čĆ║ The Ahamed Fulane Mausoleum adjoining the Djingareyber Mosque 
­čĆ║ The Bahaber Babadi├ę Mausoleum adjoining the Djingareyber Mosque 
­čĆ║ The door of the Sidi Yahia Mosque

With the exception of the Sheikh Mohamed Mahmoud Al Arawani Mausoleum, each of these buildings were all classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Sites which embodied the identity of the city, known as the “Pearl of the Desert” and the “City of 333 Saints”. 

Testifying at the opening of his trial on August 22, 2016 Mr. Al Mahdi expressed remorse and admitted to the ICC that he was guilty of the war crime consisting of attacking the historic and religious monuments stating “All the charges brought against me are accurate and correct. I am really sorry, and I regret all the damage that my actions have caused.”  He further stated “I seek their forgiveness and I ask them to look at me as a son who has lost his way,” and “I would like to make them a solemn promise that this was the first and the last wrongful act I will ever commit.”

Mr. Al Faqi Al Mahdi’s guilty plea and conviction constitute a watershed moment in heritage crime prosecution as it represents the first case of its kind to be successfully brought before and ultimately prosecuted by the ICC concerning the destruction of historic monuments and buildings dedicated to religion. 

Speaking in response to today's ruling, El Boukhari Ben Essayouti, Head of the Cultural Mission of Timbuktu stated he hoped this trail has been an important lesson, not just to Ahmad al Faqi al Mahdi but to others who would destroy culture.  He was quoted as saying that he hoped this trial “has to be useful for something, showing to everyone that in the same way that we cannot kill another person with impunity, we cannot just destroy a world heritage site with impunity either.” 

September 26, 2015

Saturday, September 26, 2015 - , No comments

Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi Surrendered to the International Criminal Court at the Hague on Heritage War Crime Charges for Destruction of Historic Monuments in Timbuktu

In a case setting precedence Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, also known as Abu Tourab, is the first suspect to be charged by the Hague's International Criminal Court, the world's only permanent war crimes court, in relation to offenses involving the destruction of religious and historical monuments. 

During 2012 Azawadi forces seized control of northern Mali and used shovels, axes, and automatic weapons to destroy shrines and pilgrimage sites, tied mostly to Islam’s Sufi religious group. In total, 14 important historical sites were damaged in Timbuktu. 

As an alleged member of the Ansar Dine, a Tuareg Islamic extremist militia in North Africa, Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, was formally indicted by the International Criminal Court in June 2015 for overseeing the destruction of nine mausoleums and one mosque while heading Hesbah, also referred to as the "Manners' Brigade" which was tasked with carrying out the decisions of the Islamic Court of Timbuktu.

Ruins of the mausoleum of Alfa Moya,
Image Credit 
Eric Feferberg, AFP

The situation in Mali was referred to the Court by the government of Mali on 13 July 2012. On 16 January 2013, the  ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, opened an investigation into alleged crimes committed on the territory of Mali as a result of the 2012 uprising. 

Bensouda has stated that the court has established reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Al Faqi is criminally responsible for having committed, individually and jointly with others, facilitated or otherwise contributed to the commission of war crimes by intentionally directing attacks against the following buildings: 

Mausoleum of Ahamed Fulane
Mausoleum of Alpha Moya
Mausoleum of Bahaber Babadi├ę
Mausoleum of Cheick Abdoul Kassim Attouaty
Mausoleum of Sheikh Mohamed Mahmoud Al Arawani
Mausoleum of Sheikh Muhammad El Micky
Mausoleum of Sheikh Sidi Mokhtar Ben Sidi Muhammad Ben Sheikh Alkabir
Mausoleum of Sidi Mahmoud Ben Amar
Mausoleum of Sidi Mahmoud Ben Omar Mohamed Aquit
Sidi Yahya Mosque

Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi was surrendered to the court by Niger authorities on Saturday September 26, 2015.   No date was immediately set for his arraignment.  

The full ICC statement on this case can be found here. 

A video statement by the ICC Prosecutor - Fatou Bensouda, can be seen below. 

May 31, 2014

Joris Kila's "Mission Report: Civil-Military Assessment Mission for Malian Heritage" Published in the Spring 2014 issue of ARCA's Journal of Art Crime

Joris Kila is a researcher at the Kompetenzzentrum Kulturelles Erbe und Kulturg├╝terschutz of the University of Vienna in Austria. He has been acting chairman of the cultural affairs department at the Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) Group North in the Netherlands, and in that capacity he undertook several cultural rescue missions in Iraq and FYROM (Macedonia). He is Editor in Chief of the Peer Reviewed series Heritage and Identity at Brill Academic Publishers (Leiden-Boston) and author and co-author of many academic publications on the subject of cultural property protection in times of armed conflict utilizing militarized experts. He holds degrees in Art history and Classical Archaeology and a PhD in Cultural Sciences. He is a reserve Lieutenant Colonel and is regularly asked to advice on Cultural Property Protection issues.

Dr. Kila published the Mission Report on Civil-Military Assessment Mission for Malian Heritage. This is how he describes the mission's objective:
The objective of the mission was to evaluate the current situation of Cultural Heritage (including monuments, archaeological and historical sites and archives) in Northern Mali after the recent armed conflict. Especially possibilities to establish contacts with the Malian Armed Forces resulting in support for their eventual endeavors to help protecting Cultural Heritage following international legal obligations had to be assessed. The latter should preferably lead to military participation in a, yet to be created, National committee of the Blue Shield in Mali. 
Different accounts and statements regarding iconoclasm, looting and vandalism were published regarding locations in Northern and Central Mali that were, until recently under control of Jihadist forces. Sometimes such reports were contradictive and vague therefore it was necessary to send a mission, especially to those sites that were reportedly affected by both criminal and supposedly military ‘’justified’’ acts. Aim was to document the situation, to state damages incurred and to encourage and motivate the parties involved, especially the Armed Forces of Mali, to further efforts to protect the invaluable Cultural Heritage of Mali. 
The team took advantage of their former experiences during Civil-Military Assessment Missions on the status of Egyptian and Libyan Heritage. 
The objectives of the Malian mission went beyond mere damage assessment. Considered were also typical post war problems such as illegal digging, looting and illicit traffic of cultural property. An international, timely and independent fact finding mission generally provides support on a wide (international) level while at the same time giving perspectives, at least for the mid-term. In addition signs of international concern and solidarity can encourage those Malians who protected their heritage under difficult and dangerous conditions during the recent occupation. It was of vital importance to make contacts, or stay in contact with those, currently responsible for Mali's heritage, especially in the Armed Forces. This way it will be possible to assist with raising awareness on the protection of cultural property while stimulating potential international professional support to be offered and also discuss issues on a personal and direct level.
You may finish reading this column in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue (#11) of The Journal of Art Crime edited by ARCA founder Noah Charney. The Journal of Art Crime may be accessed through subscription or in paperback from The Table of Contents is listed on ARCA's website here. The Associate Editors are Marc Balcells (John Jay College of Law) and Christos Tsirogiannis (University of Cambridge). Design and layout (including the front cover illustration) are produced by Urška Charney.

December 12, 2012

Erik Nemeth on "The Diplomatic Case for Repatriating Art and Antiquities" in U.S. News

Erik Nemeth, formerly with the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, is a trustee of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art and an adjunct international security policy analyst at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation. Here's a link to Nemeth's article in U.S. News & World Report on "The Diplomatic Power of Art" which begins here:
Even as cultural property faces immediate peril today in conflict zones like Syria and Mali, there is anecdotal evidence that some nations are awakening to the diplomatic and foreign policy benefits that can flow from the repatriation of cultural patrimony.
While on a different scale from World War II, historic structures, religious monuments, and other priceless antiquities continue to suffer collateral damage and exploitation in armed conflict. Antiquities have been stolen, smuggled and sold in what is a reported multibillion dollar underground market. They have become the illicit prizes of private collectors and the subject of legal claims against museums.
So it goes in Syria, where wartime damage to World Heritage Sites, such as Krak des Chevaliers, seems intractable. In northern Mali, too, religious strife has brought ruin to centuries-old, historic shrines in Timbuktu. Where is the constructive potential of cultural property?

April 5, 2012

UNESCO Warns Mali's Cultural Heritage Sites Endangered

Old Towns of Djenn├ę
On April 2, UNESCO's Director-General Irina Bokova "voiced concern about the risk posed by fighting posed around the World Heritage site of Timbuktu in the north of Mali and recalled the internationally recognized obligation of countries to safeguard their heritage in times of war."

According to BBC News, a recent coup in the West African country has brought fighting to Timbuktu, an important center of Islamic study with 700,000 manuscripts, many from Timbuktu's golden age in the 15th and 16th centuries, in approximately 60 private libraries.

Director-General Bokova identified Timbuktu's architectural wonders as the great mosques of Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahla.  Timbuktu was added to UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1988.

In the press release, UNESCO reiterates that "according to the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Properties in the Event of Armed Conflict and Its Protocols, armies must refrain from using or damaging cultural heritage properties during times of war."

Bokova offered UNESCO's "expertise and experience to help Mali ensure the safeguarding of Timbuktu."
According to recent news reports, rebels have entered the site and shots have been heard there.  Mali has three other world heritage sites beside Timbuktu: The Old Towns of Djenn├ę, the Cliff of Bandiagara (Land of the Dogons) and the Tomb of Askia.
Last year in March, Samuel Sidib├ę, Director of the National Museum of Mali, attended UNESCO's meeting in Paris that commemorated the 40th anniversary of the 1970 Convention.

March 17, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011 - ,, No comments

Samuel Sidib├ę, Director of the National Museum of Mali, Spoke Wednesday at UNESCO in Paris about the 1970 Convention and How the Severe Problem of Looting of Archaeological Sites Was Exacerbated By Demand in the Art Market for Wooden and Ceramic Masks

Samuel Sidib├ę of Mali posed for photograph
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, editor

PARIS - Samuel Sidib├ę, the director of the National Museum of Mali, the last speaker scheduled on Tuesday, actually opened the second day of the 40th commemoration meeting at UNESCO on the 1970 Convention when time ran out on on the panel, "Illicit trafficking of archaeological objects". Attendance appeared to have thinned out and the cameras had disappeared, but when I mentioned this to Mr. Sidib├ę at the lunchbreak, he said, "I don't need any cameras." But I thought what he said was important enough to mention here. As one of the other delegates mentioned, Mr. Sidib├ę was one of the few experts from the continent of Africa to speak at the meeting, and the only one from outside of Egypt and Tunisia.

Mali, Mr. Sidib├ę began, perhaps because the Niger River runs across it, has many archaeological sites. He said that problems of looting and illicit excavations peaked in the 1970s and 1980s due to the publicity of the discovery of legitimate archaeological sites and the popularity of traditional wooden masks prized on the international market. Some unscrupulous people were falsifying the wooden masks, he said through an English interpreter as he spoke in French, the discovery of ceramic masks 'sparked interest as people lost faith in wooden masks'. This led to looting in ceramic masks. 'Originally looting occurred near the site by the Niger river where the ceramic masks were discovered but demand grew and spread to an interest in pottery in prehistoric sites,' Mr. Sidib├ę explained. 'It is a serious problem unique to Africa because although written manuscripts have been found in the Sahil region, they are lacking for other centers so artifacts are prized. It is an unacceptable moral situation to deprive people knowledge of their history.'

'What has Mali been doing to protect it's cultural heritage?' he posed. In 1985, he said, Mali adopted strict legislation that objects from archaeological sites cannot be traded commercially or exported for sale. 'All our archeological objects found in Europe are in violation of the law in Mali,' he said.

Mali ratified the 1970 Convention as a tool for international cooperation, he said. 'Mali signed an agreement with the United States to forbid the import of objects from Mali's archaeological sites and we are in partnership with the Swiss to set up an agreement to protect our heritage.'

They have other agreements with various countries and are in consultation with France, a significant art market, he said. 'Sixteen terra cotta statutes seized by the French government were returned to the Mali museum.'

In addition to working with the International Conference of Museums and the 'red list' for stolen items, they have had training programs at the professional and technical level in the field. To create awareness of the problem, they examined 'severely looted sites' of what remained to remained to better understand their context and spoke to communities throughout Mali.

'Communities have traditionally had the concept that sites are income,' he said, 'and we have been educating them that archaeological sites are culture.' He said that they will continue with research and training programs because 'too much looting is going on the African continent.'