Mali: An Attack Against History and a War Crime

Since last year, the insurgent group Ansar Dine has been destroying ancient monuments and priceless cultural artifacts in Timbuktu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and historic center of Islamic learning. The insurgents began by demolishing mausoleums and tombs with axes, shovels and hammers in July 2012. In October they smashed more tombs. In December they destroyed remaining mausoleums. And in late January 2013, they set fire to two museums housing thousands of priceless manuscripts, some of which date back to the 13th century.

Ansar Dine insurgents justify their actions by claiming to defend the purity of their Islamic faith against idol worship and as part of their goal of installing Sharia law in Mali. UNESCO’s Director General has called it “an attack against this history and the values it carries—values of tolerance, exchange, and living together, which lie at the heart of Islam.”

The insurgents’ actions also constitute war crimes, under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Article 8(2)(e)(iv) makes it a war crime to intentionally direct attacks against “buildings dedicated to religion, education, art… [and] historic monuments… provided they are not military objectives” in non-international armed conflicts. This is exactly what the Ansar Dine insurgents have done.

Last July, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda recognized that her office had authority to charge the insurgents with these crimes as part of its investigation into the situation in Mali. And when her office formally opened its investigation January 2013, she listed “intentionally directing attacks against protected objects” among the crimes that her office would investigate. If the prosecution follows through with such charges, they would be the first of their kind before the ICC.

It should be noted that, if a case moves forward, representatives of the destroyed sites and cultural artifacts should be admitted to participate as victims in ICC proceedings. Article 68(3) of the Rome Statute entitles victims of ICC crimes to present their “views and concerns” where their interests are affected, as long as it is not prejudicial to or inconsistent with the rights of the accused and a fair and impartial trial. Rule 85 of the ICC’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence defines “victims” to include “organizations or institutions that have sustained direct harm to any of their property which is dedicated to religion, education, art… and to historic monuments.”

The organizations responsible for the destroyed sites and artifacts clearly fit within this definition, and the court should respect their right to present their views and concerns. With charges that represent the destruction and the contribution of these organizations, the ICC proceedings will fully represent the damage that Ansar Dine rebels have caused—both to the people on the ground and to the irreplaceable historic record of Islam in Africa.

4 Comments

Good day all,
Do you beleive that mobilizing thousands of military members from France and allies to Mali only to protect demolishing mausoleums and tombs Or to ban shariaa law in a french colony Or to protect the remaining French assets in Africa ? Truth is that Ansar Dine Group is only a party which defend citizen rights to live without slavery and colonization.
Shariaa is the most equitable law ever set up in humanity, dont ask google but search in pure islamic reference.
Sincerly yours.

GOOD DAY TO YOU AS WELL, MOHCIN. YOU'RE A MAN. DO YOU THINK IT'S RIGHT FOR A WOMAN TO HAVE TO HAVE A MALE COMPANION TO SIMPLY GO FOR A WALK? TRY TO IMAGINE YOU'RE A PREGNANT WOMAN. IN CHINA WITH FOOT BINDING WOMEN OFTEN DIED IN CHILDBIRTH. NOW THINK YOU'RE INSIDE ALL DAY, ONLY ALLOWED TO GO OUT WITH A BROTHER OR FATHER. YOU'RE IN PRISON. YOU GET NO EXERCISE, AND YOU CAN'T SEE BECAUSE YOU'RE WEARING CROSSHATCHES OVER YOUR EYES. I WOULDN'T LIKE TO LIVE LIKE THAT. NEITHER DO WOMEN IN MALI. WHY SHOULD YOU DECIDE FOR THEM HOW THEY LIVE? WHAT GIVE YOU THE RIGHT. THE HOLY QURAN YOU'LL PROBABLY SAY. WHY ARE YOU DESTROYING ANCIENT QURANS? IT'S INSANE. AN ARAB WOMAN IN THE NEW YORK TIMES SAID THAT THE PROBLEM WITH SOME NOT ALL MUSLIM MEN IS THEY THINK THEIR HONOR LIES BETWEEN "THEIR" WOMEN'S LEGS. I THINK MUSLIM MEN SHOULD WEAR CROSSHATCHED BURKAS. THAT WAY THEY WOULDN'T SEE WOMEN AND BE DISTRESSED BY THEIR DESIRE. OR THEY COULD STAY INSIDE ALL DAY COOKING AND TAKING CARE OF CHILDREN. NOT LEARNING TO READ. THAT WAY WOMEN WOULD BE SAFE. IS THAT NOT A BETTER WAY TO MAKE PEOPLE SAFE? MEN ARE THE ONES KILLING EACH OTHER. LET THEM STAY AT HOME. IS THAT NOT A GOOD IDEA?

April, you are a sample of human who judge a nation from some words on sponsored newspapers and you are blinkered to accept such limited toughts. May add that most of facts published and viewed on TV are fake ones which nurrish war lobby and their benfits (Bosnia, Iraq, Afganistan, Palestine ...).
Also, you are blaming things that your own grandparents were adopting in their lives (companion, veil, early age marriage, homa maid caring for kids ...).
I say; asfar as we are separating from God's religion, we are lost and out of mind. This is a pure war againt religion especially Islam. And as Mohcin said, do not rely on internet to find reality as all sources are corrupted and fake to make you beleive that you're living in Freedom.

Yeah....sorry boys. Any "governance", by any "religion" is bad juju in my books. No offense but I feel what I feel. In my estimation we all know the right and wrong of things...at our base. We know that if our actions are causing others stress and sadness, then, at your core, you are in denial of whatever "religion" you subscribe to. Isn't it kind of obvious that so many tiny human minds all grouped with their own ideologies and desires to have others conform to their views; that there cannot be "one" true path. The path is the one that allows ALL people the freedom to express what they know at their core. Namely...you don't hurt or make others sad....simple. My wife for example has free reign to go where and when she chooses for reasons completely her own. She is free...free to leave, free to stay, free to handle anything we have in any way she deems fit. Were I to "order" her in this way or that then what does that say of me....that I put myself and beliefs on a pedestal only to watch it burn.

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