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ICC hands 9-year jail term to rebel who destroyed Timbuktu monuments


The International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague has unanimously sentenced Malian rebel, Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, to nine years in jail. ‘‘The chamber unanimously sentences you to nine years of imprisonment,” the judge said.

Al Mahdi is was found guilty of war crimes relating to the destruction of historical and religious monuments in Timbuktu in 2012. He is the first person to be jailed on war crimes against property. All others have been jailed with crimes against humanity.

The court however noted that the duration from when the warrant of arrest was issued till date will be deducted from the 9 years. Al Mahdi got the least sentence as per the prosecution’s request for between 9 – 11 years for the crime.

“In accordance with the appeals chamber’s jurisprudence, the time you have spent in detention in accordance with an order of this court, namely since your arrest pursuant to the warrant issued on 18th September 2015, shall be deducted from your sentence,” the judge delivering the verdict added.

The ICC ruling said Al Mahdi was culpable for the attacks as a result of his personal and full involvement in most of them. The ruling stated that he had as head of Ansar Dine’s religious police wing, the Al Hisbah, he was present at every ancient mosque or mausoleum that was destroyed.

He is also said to have written a sermon justifying the destruction. He also gave instructions on the choice of sequence that attacks were to be carried out, he is also said to have served as media spokesperson justifying the attacks.

Al Mahdi is the first person to be tried for the offence since the ICC began its work. His trial which started in March this year was closed last month and the court slated today for his sentencing by the judges.

The Chamber noted Mahdi’s remorse in the course of the trial. He is said to have cooperated with the prosecution and shown remorse to all those affected by the destruction. The court noted that all these factors went into helping mitigating his sentence.

‘‘This is the first international trial focusing on the destruction of historical and religious monuments, and the first ICC case where the defendant made an admission of guilt. Subsequently, the prosecution presented its evidence and called three witnesses,’‘ the ICC said of the case.

Facts surrounding the landmark case

  • Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi was charged with war crimes in Mali’s Timbuktu region.
  • The charge related to the destruction of historical and religious monuments.
  • The offences for which he is charged took place between 30 June 2012 and 11 July 2012.
  • The warrant of arrest against him was issued by ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I on 18 September 2015
  • Niger handed him over to the ICC on 26 September 2015.
  • On 24 March 2016, ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I confirmed charges against him.
  • On 22 August 2016, Al Mahdi admitted guilt to the war crime and pleaded for forgiveness.
  • On 24 August 2016, the trial concluded in the case
  • On 27 September, judgment and sentencing would be delivered by the ICC
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