Malian jihadist handed over to ICC on war crimes charges

THE HAGUE, Apr  1:A Malian jihadist was arrested today and handed over to the International Criminal Court to face war crimes charges for the destruction of Timbuktu and sex slavery, the tribunal said.
Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud was detained by the Malian authorities. He has now arrived at the tribunal’s detention centre in The Hague, the court said in a statement.
The 40-year-old faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for the destruction of the holy shrines of Timbuktu between 2012-2013 as well as accusations of rape and forced marriage.
“The custody of the ICC sends a strong message to all those, wherever they are, who commit crimes which shock the conscience of humanity that my office remains steadfast in the pursuit of its mandate,” chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said.
Al-Hassan’s arrest came four days after the court issued an international warrant for his arrest.
Prosecutors allege that he “committed crimes against humanity and war crimes in Timbuktu, Mali, between April 2012 and January 2013.”        “The charges against him are representative of the criminality and resulting victimisation of the population during this period,” Bensouda added.
He will be only the second Islamic extremist to face trial at the ICC after war crimes judges in 2016 jailed, for nine years, another Malian who had pleaded guilty to demolishing Timbuktu’s fabled shrines in 2012.
The landmark ruling at the world’s only permanent war crimes court was seen as a warning that destroying mankind’s heritage will not go unpunished.
In its first case to focus on cultural destruction as a war crime, the International Criminal Court found Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi guilty of directing attacks on the UNESCO world heritage site during the jihadist takeover of northern Mali in 2012.
Mahdi “supervised the destruction and gave instructions to the attackers” who took pickaxes and bulldozers to the centuries-old shrines, presiding judge Raul Pangalangan told the tribunal. (AGENCIES)