Mali: ICC trial over destruction of cultural property in Timbuktu shows need for broader accountability

In response to the opening today of the trial of Ahmad Al-Fadi Al-Mahdi, an alleged senior member of the Ansar Eddine armed group, for attacks on mosques and mausoleums in Timbuktu in 2012, Amnesty International’s Senior Legal Advisor Erica Bussey said:

“Attacks against religious and historical monuments violate cultural rights and can cause significant harm to the local and sometimes broader communities. They are war crimes and those suspected of carrying out such attacks should be prosecuted.”

“However, while this case breaks new ground for the ICC, we must not lose sight of the need to ensure accountability for other crimes under international law, including murder, rape and torture of civilians that have been committed in Mali since 2012.”

While this case breaks new ground for the ICC, we must not lose sight of the need to ensure accountability for other crimes under international law
Erica Bussey, Amnesty International's Senior Legal Advisor for Africa

Background

Al-Mahdi is accused of intentionally directing attacks against 10 mausoleums and mosques in Timbuktu between 30 June and 11 July 2012. The situation in Mali was referred to the ICC by the government in 2012.

This is the first ICC case to focus on the destruction of cultural property and the only ICC case so far addressing crimes under international law committed during the 2012 conflict in Mali.

Although it has been reported by the ICC that Al-Mahdi intends to make an admission of guilt and the trial has initially been scheduled for one week, he must be presumed innocent until the ICC is fully convinced of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and delivers that verdict.