ICC to judge militant accused of destroying monuments

Former Ansar Dine militant to face international charges for attacking historic sites

Photo by: AFP (Archive)
Photo by: AFP (Archive)

Men look over burned manuscripts at Ahmet Baba Institute in Timbuktu, Mali.

Ahmad al Mahdi al Faqi, a militant accused with the war crime of attacking religious monuments in the ancient city of Timbuktu in Mali has been handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in Hague for trial.

This is the first time ICC will handle such a case "concerning the destruction of buildings dedicated to religion and historical monuments," according to a statement released on Saturday.

The militant also known as Abu Tourab, was handed over to the ICC by the government of Niger.

He will stand trial for the destruction of nine mausoleums and a mosque in the historic African city during the summer of 2012.

Among the destroyed buildings were at least two UNESCO World Heritage sites, Sheikh Sidi Ahmed Ben Amar Arragadi mausoleum and Sidi Yahia mosque.

The suspect was a member of Ansar Dine, an Al Qaeda-linked group that held much of northern Mali during the time. He was also head of the so-called "Manners' Brigade" that enforced fundamentalist rules in the city.

The ICC alleges Al Faqi worked with the so-called Islamic Court of Timbuktu during the city's occupation.

Timbuktu - listed as a World Heritage Site by Unesco - was considered the centre of Islamic learning between 13th and 17th Centuries.

The ancient city’s mausoleums have been restored In the past three years since they were destroyed by Ansar Dine.

Speaking to TRT World, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said destruction of such heritage is a “war crime” according to the ICC and all criminals should be brought to justice.

When asked why other conflict zones don’t get the same recognition Bokova said she thinks “it goes hand in hand with the persecution of people, of the huge humanitarian crisis.”

“I saw how people were devastated when they saw the manuscripts being burned. Manuscripts which contained the millennium wisdom of Islamic culture of astronomy, of philosophy, of medicine,” she added.

ISIS militants have destroyed many historic sites across Syria and Iraq in the recent years, including those in the ancient city of Palmyra.

“In fact why extremists are doing that? Because they know that history will delegitimise them,” Bokova stated.


TRTWorld and agencies