War crimes court to award Timbuktu damages in August

2017-07-22 07:17
International Criminal Court

International Criminal Court

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The Hague - War crimes judges will next month deliver a landmark order for reparations for the razing of the fabled Timbuktu shrines by a Malian jihadist, the International Criminal Court said Friday.

Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi was jailed for nine years in September after pleading guilty to directing attacks on the Unesco world heritage site during the jihadist takeover of northern Mali in 2012.

It was the first case to focus on cultural destruction as a war crime at the tribunal based in The Hague.

Now the tribunal has ordered "a public hearing on 17 August 2017 at 0800 GMT ... to deliver its reparations order," a court statement said.

Judges ruled in September that Mahdi "supervised the destruction and gave instructions to the attackers" who used pickaxes and bulldozers to hack apart the centuries-old shrines.

He had pleaded guilty to the single war crimes charge of "intentionally directing" attacks on nine of Timbuktu's mausoleums and the centuries-old door of the city's Sidi Yahia mosque.

Founded between the fifth and 12th centuries by Tuareg tribes, Timbuktu has been dubbed "the city of 333 saints" for the number of Muslim sages buried there.

Revered as a centre of Islamic learning during its golden age in the 15th and 16th centuries, it was however considered idolatrous by the jihadists who swept across Mali's remote north in early 2012.

September's landmark verdict by the ICC was also the first arising out of the conflict in Mali, and the first time a jihadist had sat in the dock.

The shrines have now been restored using traditional methods and local masons, in a project financed by several countries as well as Unesco.

It remains unclear what kind of damages could be awarded by the ICC judges and to whom.

But in a recent filing to the court, the Trust Fund for Victims which implements such awards, noted concerns that "if financial compensation is made a central component of these reparations, it risks creating - in the face of poverty - an incentive for people in other towns to attack cultural heritage sites".

It urged the judges to be cautious, if they did award monetary compensation, about publicising it.

The reparations will only be the second such award in the history of the court since it began work in 2002 to try the world's worst crimes.

In March, the ICC awarded symbolic damages of $250 to each of the 297 victims of former Congolese warlord Germain Katanga, who is serving 12 years for a 2003 attack on a village in the troubled Ituri province.

The court estimated the damage caused in the attack at $3.7m, and found Katanga liable for $1m of that total, while recognising he was penniless.

Read more on:    international criminal court  |  mali  |  west africa

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