Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Islamist Sentenced By International Criminal Court For Destruction of Religious Sites In Mali

In In the Case of  The Prosecutor v. Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, (ICC,  Sept. 27, 2016), a trial chamber of the International Criminal Court sitting in The Hague unanimously found Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi guilty of war crimes for directing attacks against religious and historic buildings-- primarily mausoleums that were UNESCO World Heritage sites-- in Timbuktu, Mali in 2012. The Chamber sentenced Al Mahdi, leader of a morality brigade known as the Hesbah, to 9 years in prison.  A summary issued by the International Court sets out background:
In early April 2012, following the retreat of Malian armed forces, the groups Ansar Dine and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) took control of Timbuktu. From then until January 2013, Ansar Dine and AQIM imposed their religious and political edicts on the territory ... the Hesbah....
The mausoleums of saints and mosques of Timbuktu are an integral part of the religious life of its inhabitants.... These mausoleums are frequently visited by the residents – they are places of prayer and, for some, places of pilgrimage....
Mr. Al Mahdi expressed his opinion that all Islamic jurists agree on the prohibition of any construction over a tomb, but recommended not destroying the mausoleums so as to maintain relations between the population and the occupying groups. Nevertheless, Ag Ghaly [the Ansar Dine leader] gave the instruction to proceed.... Despite his initial reservations, Mr Al Mahdi accepted to conduct the attack without hesitation on receipt of the instruction.... He ... wrote a sermon dedicated to the destruction of the mausoleums, which was read at the Friday prayer at the launch of the attack. He personally determined the sequence in which the buildings were to be attacked.
The International Criminal Court issued a press release announcing the decision. AP reports on the case.