Showing posts with label Timbuktu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Timbuktu. 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:

🏺 The Sidi Mahamoud Ben Omar Mohamed Aquit Mausoleum
🏺 The Sheikh Mohamed Mahmoud Al Arawani Mausoleum
🏺The Sheikh Sidi El Mokhtar Ben Sidi Mouhammad Al Kabir Al Kounti Mausoleum
🏺 The Alpha Moya Mausoleum
🏺 The Sheikh Mouhamad El Micky Mausoleum
🏺 The Sheikh Abdoul Kassim Attouaty Mausoleum
🏺 The Sheikh Sidi Ahmed Ben Amar Arragadi Mausoleum
🏺 The Ahamed Fulane Mausoleum adjoining the Djingareyber Mosque 
🏺 The Bahaber Babadié Mausoleum adjoining the Djingareyber Mosque 
🏺 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.” 

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. 

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 Babadié
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. 

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?