Transgression in Mali a turning point in prosecution of damages to heritage

31 August 2017

The International Criminal Court will today order reparations to be paid by Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, an Islamist from Mali who was jailed last year after pleading guilty to destroying shrines and damaging a mosque in Timbuktu, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1988. In 2012, while the city was under the control of jihadists connected to al-Qaeda, Mr Mahdi destroyed the sacred wooden door of a mosque and ordered stone mausoleums to be smashed. In return for a guilty plea, he was given a nine-year jail sentence. Destruction of cultural heritage has been classed as a war crime by the ICC ever since the court was established in 1998, but the reparations order is only the third of its kind, and the first involving the destruction of cultural heritage. Something to give cultural vandals pause, at last.

Militants damaged and removed the sacred door of the Sidi Yahia mosque in 2012 (L), but it was restored and reinstated in September 2016 (R)

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