Mali Cultural Destruction Case Concludes at the ICC

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The United States welcomes today’s verdict at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the case against Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, a member of the violent extremist group Ansar al-Dine. Al Faqi, who surrendered to the ICC in 2015 by Nigerien authorities and pled guilty to one charge of war crimes related to intentionally directing attacks against Muslim shrines and mausoleums in Timbuktu, was sentenced to 9 years of imprisonment.

As we have seen in Mali and other contexts, the destruction of cultural artifacts and monuments has been used as a tool to seek to terrorize, to erase history, and to eradicate the identities of communities. These are assaults not just on a country and its people, but on the common cultural heritage of all humankind, and those responsible for these acts should face justice. Secretary Kerry has underscored that such acts “are a tragedy for all civilized people, and the civilized world must take a stand.” Al Faqi’s conviction is part of broader national and international efforts to protect cultural property, and it sends an important message to those responsible for such crimes that impunity will not prevail.

The United States supports efforts by the ICC and Malian authorities to provide justice for these serious crimes committed in Mali. We commend Mali for its cooperation with the ICC in this matter, and we encourage continued national and international efforts to bring to justice senior extremist leaders who led the campaign to terrorize northern Mali and destroy symbols of its rich history of tolerance and cultural pluralism.

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