ICC Convicts Malian Islamist for Timbuktu Atrocities

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By Stephanie van den Berg

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THE HAGUE, June 26 (Reuters) – Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have convicted Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud, a Malian Islamist, of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Al Hassan played a central role in the Islamic police of Timbuktu during the 2012 rebel takeover by the Ansar Dine Islamist group, linked to Al-Qaida.

In a summary of their verdict, the judges stated that Al Hassan was instrumental in enforcing sharia law in Timbuktu, a historic desert city on the fringe of the Sahara. Local inhabitants testified that he was a key figure within the Islamic police force, capable of issuing orders that were carried out by officers.

“Al Hassan has been found guilty by majority decision of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including torture, cruel treatment, and outrages upon personal dignity, for the public flogging of 13 members of the population of Timbuktu,” said Presiding Judge Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua.

Al Hassan, who pleaded not guilty to all charges, did not deny his membership in Ansar Dine. His lawyers argued that he was attempting to maintain order in a chaotic situation after the rebel takeover.

Clad in a traditional West African yellow robe and white head dress, the 47-year-old Al Hassan showed no emotion as he was also convicted of religious persecution and the war crimes of mutilation and participating in sham trials.

Prosecutors had charged Al Hassan with numerous gender-based crimes, alleging that the Islamic police terrorized the women of Timbuktu, subjecting them to rape, forced marriages, and sexual slavery. However, the judges found that while rape and forced marriages did occur in Timbuktu, Al Hassan was not responsible for these crimes.

Prosecutors have 30 days from the judgment to file an appeal. Al Hassan’s sentence will be determined after another round of hearings, with the ICC capable of imposing a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Al Qaeda-linked fighters of Ansar Dine used pick-axes, shovels, and hammers to destroy earthen tombs and centuries-old shrines, reflecting Timbuktu’s Sufi version of Islam, known as the “City of 333 Saints.” However, the judges acquitted Al Hassan of charges related to these attacks, finding no evidence of his involvement.

Last Friday, the ICC unsealed an arrest warrant for Iyad Ag Ghaly, the alleged leader of Ansar Dine, also known as Abou Fadl. In 2016, another Islamist rebel was sentenced to nine years by the ICC for participating in the destruction of Timbuktu’s religious monuments.

The ICC, the world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal, has been investigating events in Mali since 2012. French and Malian troops pushed the rebels back the following year.

Photo Caption:
Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud rises as judges enter the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, June 26, 2024, where judges delivered the verdict in the trial of the suspect accused of playing a key role in a reign of terror unleashed by Al-Qaida-linked insurgents on the historic desert city of Timbuktu in northern Mali in 2012. Peter Dejong/Pool via REUTERS.

By Naija247news
By Naija247newshttps://www.naija247news.com/
Naija247news is an investigative news platform that tracks news on Nigerian Economy, Business, Politics, Financial and Africa and Global Economy.

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