Mali

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former coup leader general Amadou Haya Sanogo arrives for his trial in Mali on November 30, 2016 (Photo: Twitter/@Justice_Mali)
15 December 2016 by Abdoulaye Guindo in Mali

During December 2016, the Malian authorities put on trial former coup leader General Amadou Haya Sanogo along with 17 other military men for their roles in kidnapping and killing 21 elite Malian soldiers who had been accused of leading a counter-coup against Sanago and his followers.

Abdoulaye Guindo, a journalist with Malian daily online Proces-Verbal, has been covering justice efforts in Mali for many years. But this trial was different from any other he has covered.

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28 October 2016 by Sebastian Green Martinez

On September 27, the International Criminal Court (ICC) delivered its judgment in the case of Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi. The Islamist was sentenced to nine years for the single war crime of attacking protected objects. The case was hailed as a great success. It was short trial, the court's first guilty plea followed by a swift verdict [IJTblog]. But by accepting the prosecutor's arguments that Al Mahdi was only guilty of a single war crime, was the population of Mali let down badly? 

--- 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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Defence lawyers Mohamed Anouini and Jean-Louis Gilissen at the ICC (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
01 October 2016 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

In chapter seven of Thierry Cruvellier’s book ‘Court of Remorse’ about the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), he described the two defence lawyers, Belgian Jean-Louis Gilissen and Tunisian Mohamed Aouini as inseparable. “You never saw one without the other. They were always chatting. They had the same walk, the same honest handshake with their bodies learning forward slightly to convey sincerity, matching smiles and identical moustaches.”

Fast-forward fifteen years, and the same two were again tag teaming, this time at the ICC. They were representing their client Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi during the shortest trial the court has ever seen in its own short history. From Mahdi’s arrest warrant in September 2015 when he was already in the custody of the authorities of Niger , to a judgement and sentencing, has been little more than a year. That’s because Al Mahdi pled guilty and his lawyers Gilissen and Aouini negotiated a deal with the prosecution that allowed judges to give him a sentence of nine years for the single war crime of cultural destruction, safe in the knowledge that the prosecution would not appeal.

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 Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi at the opening of his trial (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
08 September 2016 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

Amid much fanfare jihadist Ahmed Al Faqi Al Mahdi, in August became the first Malian to stand trial at The Hague-based ICC. Because he pled guilty, there wasn’t much of a procedure, lasting a bare three days. The judges will announce their decision later this month on whether he can indeed be found guilty of destroying a range of cultural monuments in the dusty, far northern city of Timbuktu, during the period when two Islamic groups, Ansareddine and al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) occupied the town and much of the north of the country.

His confession raises the prospect of those most responsible for serious crimes in Mali being brought to justice if he continues to cooperate with ICC prosecutors. However, away from The Hague, experts suggest that further prosecutions of for crimes during Mali's resurgent 2012 conflict in the country itself are far off.

 

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

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Prosecution picture of Malian ICC suspect Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi preaching to the crowd at the destruction of a Timbuktu shrine (Photo: Janet Anderson)
01 March 2016 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

If you listen to the prosecution’s presentation at the ICC today, Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, an Islamist from Timbuktu, was not only an expert in Islamic law – and recognised as such by his peers – a recruiter and an active member of the Islamic group Ansaredinne, but, most importantly, the ringleader behind the destruction of nine shrines in 2012.

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South Ossetian Internally Displaced Persons in Skra, Georgia in March 2012 (Photo: Flickr/Marco Fieber)
29 October 2015

This month we look at the investigation ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda wants to open into Georgia with commentators arguing this could be a double-edged sword for Tblisi as the court has made it clear it will investigate alleged crimes from all sides. For the ICC meanwhile this probe signals a clear move away from the attention on situations in Africa, a big point of criticism from the court's detractors.

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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)
06 October 2015 by Benjamin Duerr, The Hague (The Netherlands)

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.