ICC orders reparations for destruction of cultural heritage: a limited step in the prosecution of crimes committed in Timbuktu

Press release
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Bamako - The Hague, 17 August 2017 - FIDH and AMDH, its member organisation in Mali,
welcome the order issued today by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to award reparations to victims in the case against Ahmad Al Mahdi Al Faqi. On 27 September 2016, Al Mahdi was sentenced to 9 years in prison for the war crime of the destruction of cultural sites in Timbuktu in 2012. However, this decision should not end the investigation against Al Mahdi and his accomplices, his group also being allegedly responsible for crimes against humanity during the occupation of Timbuktu in 2012/2013.

The order issued today by Trial Chamber VIII of the International Criminal Court acknowledges for the first time the right to reparation to victims of destruction of cultural heritage.

This reparations order is historic. The unique character of the war crime of destructing cultural heritage entails that the crimes not only affect the local community of Timbuktu, but instead the country, and more globally, the whole community. It must not however, make us forget about the other crimes committed at the time in the city, which must also be judged.

Drissa Traoré, FIDH Vice-President

The ICC has ordered individual reparations - for the guardians of the destroyed mausoleums-, as well as collective and symbolic reparations for the people of Timbuktu, and, for the first time, for the State of Mali and the international community. FIDH will support the work of the Trust Fund for Victims to design an implementation plan for the reparation by 16 February 2018.

FIDH and AMDH have been closely monitoring the case against Al Mahdi from the outset. In March 2015 our organisations filed a complaint on behalf of 33 victims of crimes committed in Timbuktu before the High Court of the Commune 3 of Bamako. The complaint accuses Al Mahdi and 14 others of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including sexual and gender-based crimes. Crimes denounced include torture, arbitrary detentions, rape, forced marriage, sexual slavery and other sexual violence.

The trial of Al-Mahdi before the ICC was limited to prosecuting the destruction of the cultural heritage of Timbuktu, failing to hold him to account for the other crimes against humanity which he and his men have nevertheless committed.

Moctar Mariko AMDH President

The very limited nature of the charges retained is not unlike the trial that will open Friday 18 August before the Criminal Court (Cour d’assises) of Bamako against the former commissioner of the Islamic police of Gao, Aliou Mahamane Toure. The prosecution did not retain the charges of war crimes, instead choosing to call them “aggravated assaults”.

We therefore continue to insist that the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) further consider credible allegations of Al Mahdi’s criminal responsibility and of others for additional international crimes committed in Timbuktu.

More generally, we hope that the announced field visit of the Prosecutor to Mali in September will be seized as an opportunity to further investigate crimes committed in Northern Mali during the jihadist occupation in 2012/2013.

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