ICC prosecutor stresses psychological harm of Timbuktu destruction

01 March 2016 by Benjamin Duerr, The Hague (The Netherlands)

In the first case of its kind, judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have to decide whether the destruction of cultural property and related psychological harm to the population in Mali deserves the attention of the global court. At the confirmation of charges hearing which began Tuesday, the prosecutors said Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi should be tried for war crimes committed during the Islamist occupation of the city of Timbuktu.

Mali war crimes suspect Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi at his confirmation of charges hearing before the ICC (Photo: Twitter/ICC-CPI)
Image caption: 
Mali war crimes suspect Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi at his confirmation of charges hearing before the ICC (Photo: Twitter/ICC-CPI)

This is the first time the court is handling a case where nobody has been killed or physically harmed. While other ICC cases involve sometimes hundreds of individual victims, the charges against Al Faqi Al Mahdi relate to general psychological harm done to the society.

Al Faqi Al Mahdi is an alleged member of the Islamist group Ansaredinne and accused of being responsible for the destruction of nine mausoleums and a mosque in Timbuktu in 2012 [IJT-187]. For the ICC prosecutors, however, the case is more than just about the destruction of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

“What's at stake here is not just bricks and stones,” ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said Tuesday. The ICC's core crimes – namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes – are committed in various forms. “They all have in common that they cause grave harm, psychologically or physically,” Bensouda explained.

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