The International Criminal Court will on Thursday issue an order for compensation for the destruction of mausoleums in Timbuktu, by Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, a Malian Jihadist.
Al-Mahdi was sentenced to nine years in prison in September with judges hoping this would discourage any other destruction of world heritage sites.
During the trial, the 40-year old Islamic militant leader pleaded guilty and asked for forgiveness for directing attacks on nine mausoleums and the door of the Sidi Yahia mosque in 2012, when the Malian city of Timbuktu was occupied by several militant groups.
Born around 1975, he was a member of Ansar Dine, one of the al-Qaeda-linked jihadist groups that controlled northern Mali for about ten months in 2012, before being largely driven out by international intervention Triggered in January 2013 by France.
...a warning ... this is a serious crime.
As leader of the Hisbah, the Islamic brigade of morals, he had ordered and participated in the attacks against the mausoleums, destroyed by picks, hoes and chisels.
His trial was the first organized at the ICC for the destruction of cultural property and treated as a war crime. And his condemnation is “a warning … that this is a serious crime,” said prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.
Although the sentencing sent a strong message, the reparation order “would alleviate the permanent impact of these crimes,” Alina Balta, a victimology researcher at Tilburg University, told AFP.
The ICC order also has “the potential to bring hope to victims of similar crimes committed in other parts of the world,” such as the destruction of Palmyra, Syria, and other historical sites in Iraq by the Islamic State group, she added.
According to the Rome Statute, judges can now decide that victims are entitled to compensation that can include rehabilitation of victims.
But it is unclear what compensation the judges at the Hague-based Court will agree on come Thursday, a concern for the Victims Trust Fund, who warned that the expectations of victims should be “carefully maintained” in order to avoid some unrealistic expectations.
This order will constitute the second reparations order in the history of the Court established in 2002 to prosecute alleged perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
In March, the ICC allocated 250 dollars “symbolically” to each of the 297 victims of a former Congolese militia leader, Germain Katanga, sentenced to twelve years in prison in 2014.
Founded from the fifth century by Tuareg tribes, deriving its prosperity from the caravan trade, the city of Timbuktu became a great intellectual center of Islam and reached its apogee in the fifteenth century.