Is the Destruction of Cultural Property a War Crime?


On 27 September 2016, the International Criminal Court, or ICC, convicted Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi of intentionally directing attacks against religious and historic buildings in Timbuktu, Mali during the 2012 occupation by Ansar Dine and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. As a leader of the Hisbah, or the Manners Brigade, Al Mahdi ordered attacks on mosques and shrines with pickaxes, chisels, and heavy machinery. His actions were a war crime under the Rome Statute – the international law establishing the ICC – and his conviction was never in real doubt. Al Mahdi confessed at his August trial, accepting his guilt and seeking forgiveness. In exchange for his plea, the prosecution and defence agreed to a recommended prison term of nine to 11 years. The ICC sentenced Al Mahdi to nine.

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