The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague opened the confirmation of charges against Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi for destruction of religious and cultural heritage on March 1. The charges levied against al-Faqi, an alleged member of Islamic terrorist group, Ansar Dine, and an important figure in the jihadist occupation of Timbuktu, signal what appears to be the first-ever war crimes trial addressing attacks against cultural heritage. Specifically, the charges state that al-Faqi is criminally responsible, either himself or through his assistance, for "intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion and/or historical monuments in Timbuktu," including nine mausoleums and the Sidi Yahia Mosque.
According to Regulation 53 of the Court, the Pre-Trial Chamber must deliver its decision to either confirm or deny that the prosecutor has established a reasonable grounds to prosecute al-Faqi within 60 days of the end of the confirmation hearing.
Al Faqi was turned over to the ICC by Nigerian authorities in September pursuant to an arrest warrant issued earlier that month. In 2012 the investigation was encouraged by the Malian Justice Minister Malick Couliably after the ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stated that the attacks in Mali would be considered war crimes. Jihadists were in control of Timbuktu from June 2012 to January 2013.
From Jurist, March 2. Used with permission.