The Antiquities Coalition commends the International Criminal Court (ICC) on its work to end impunity for war crimes against cultural heritage.
This morning the ICC held the confirmation of charges hearing for Ahmad Al-Mahdi Al Faqi, the Islamic militant now facing trial for the targeted destruction of historic sites in the ancient city of Timbuktu. Today’s hearing will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed against Al Faqi. If so, this will be the first ICC case to prosecute heritage crimes, as well as the first brought for human rights abuses during the Malian Civil War.
Al Faqi was an active member of Ansar Dine, the Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organization, which seized and occupied much of Northern Mali in mid 2012. During this conflict, he allegedly directed attacks against at least nine sacred mausoleums and one mosque in Timbuktu, the World Heritage Site renowned for its Islamic architecture dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries. These attacks were part of Ansar Dine’s broader campaign against the people and heritage of Mali.
The Antiquities Coalition has long joined calls to prosecute deliberate attacks on cultural heritage as war crimes under international law. On March 6, we wrote the ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda urging the court to immediately open an investigation into such crimes by Daesh, which has targeted ancient, cultural, and religious sites throughout Iraq and Syria. The ICC has yet to launch a case against Daesh — for these or other atrocity crimes — but the Al-Mahdi prosecution sets a strong precedent.
We will continue to follow this important case, but in the meantime, you can learn more here.