Mali at the ICC: The blueprint for a new strategy or a bird in the hand?

06 October 2015 by Benjamin Duerr, The Hague (The Netherlands)
The ruins of the mausoleum Sheikh Sidi Ahmed Ben Amar Arragadi in June 2013. The mausoleum is one of the structures named in the preliminary charges against Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi (Photo: Flickr/MINUSMA-Sophie Ravier)
Image caption: 
The ruins of the mausoleum Sheikh Sidi Ahmed Ben Amar Arragadi in June 2013. The mausoleum is one of the structures named in the preliminary charges against Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi (Photo: Flickr/MINUSMA-Sophie Ravier)

Some see the case concerning cultural destruction in Mali as a blueprint for the International Criminal Court’s prospective, more successful prosecutions. Others call it the debut of the prosecutor’s new strategy in action: building cases from bottom-up instead of directly pursuing the most responsible perpetrators. Still, some critics say the case’s first suspect, Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, just fell into the court’s lap.

Making his initial appearance on 30 September, Al Faqi is the first alleged Islamist extremist at the court and the first person the ICC has charged with the war crime of destroying cultural and religious property. Abou Tourab, his nomme de guerre, is accused of demolishing nine mausoleums and a mosque during Timbuktu’s siege by Muslim rebels in 2012.

Although little is known about him, Al Faqi does not appear to be the most responsible individual for the crimes in Mali. Writing an op-ed in The Guardian, his former teacher, Fatouma Harber, describes him as “just a little fish”, not a “major player in the occupation”, and says there are “many [others in Mali who are] more deserving of justice”.

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--- In this special guest blog for IJT by Sebastian Green Martinez,  lecturer at the University of Buenos Aires, who has followed the Al Mahdi case closely, argues the court should have tried the Malian for persecution over the destruction of mosques and mausoleums in Timbuktu---  

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