ICC: Now tackling crimes against cultural heritage

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Saturday, September 26, 2015 - 11:51

By Niklas Jakobsson

The International Criminal Court will now deal with cultural crimes head on. Last night, the Court announced the arrest and transfer of its first suspect of war crimes for intentionally directing attacks against ten buildings dedicated to religion and historic monuments in Mali.

Ahmad Al Mahdi Al Faqi, also known as Abu Tourab, was surrendered to the Court by Niger for allegedly committing war crimes by destroying cultural sites in Mali. The arrest warrant against Al Faqi was issued only eight days before his surrender to the Court.

The situation in Mali was referred to the Court in 2012, and the Office of the Prosecutor announced that it was opening an investigation in January 2013. Since then, the Court has been relatively quiet about developments in the Mali situation.

Earlier this year, there were talks of Mali being on the ‘back-burner’ and not being a priority for the Court due to its limited resources and capacity to investigate. But as the news broke in the early hours of Saturday, it was clear that Mali has now been pushed into the limelight. The ICC has a new case on its hands.

Social media was quick to react, with Court observers from all over the world putting forward their analyses and thoughts about the latest developments. One common theme that went throughout social media was the importance of the developments – mainly because it’s the first time the Court has issued an arrest warrant for these type of crimes.

Abu Tourab is far from a household name when it comes to alleged war criminals around the world. But the Court published some initial information about him, his origins and his previous affiliations and activities.

The quick turnaround – from issuing the arrest warrant to his surrender to the Court – was also a hot topic. The Court has still to comment on exactly how and when Abu Tourab was arrested. For now, there is only secondary information.

The Public Affairs Unit of the Court finally gave some of the key messages from the OTP about the developments.

It looks like the Court is not finished with issuing arrest warrants in the Mali situation (if they haven’t issued more already). The press release issued by the Court hints at more developments to come in the Mali situation: “The case of The Prosecutor v. Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi is the first in the context of the ICC Prosecutor's investigation regarding the situation in Mali."

Lead image: Djingareyber Mosque, Timbuktu (Photo: Marco Dormino, UN/Flickr)

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