Al Mahdi judgment rendered by the ICC (plea confirmed, sentenced to 9 years of imprisonment) and related PHAP lecture

About the author(s):

Katharine Fortin is an Associate Professor at Utrecht University where she teaches IHL and IHRL. Before joining Utrecht University, she worked at the ICTY, ICC and Norton Rose Fulbright. She is the author of The Accountability of Armed Groups under Human Rights Law (Oxford University Press, 2017) which won the 2018 Lieber Prize. She has written widely about the framework of law that applies to armed groups in non-international armed conflicts and is one of the editors of the Armed Groups and International Law blog.

Today, Trial Chamber VIII of the International Criminal Court issued its judgment in The Prosecutor v Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi. The Chamber essentially accepted the plea agreement between the Prosecution and Mr Al Mahdi and convicted him for the destruction of mausoleums in Timbuktu during the non-international armed conflict in Mali. Noting substantial mitigating factors, including his genuine remorse and call upon others not to engage in similar conduct, the Chamber sentenced him to 9 years of imprisonment. The time spent in detention so far is deducted and in case of good behaviour, he could be released after having served two-thirds of his sentence (for Katanga his cooperation with the Prosecution was reason to allow for early release after two thirds of his sentence and in this case Mr Al Mahdi’s cooperation with the prosecution was specifically noted by the Chamber). The judgment can be found here (in English, French and Arabic) and the English summary read out in court here.

The case

Mr Al Mahdi was a member of Ansar Eddine, a movement associated with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (“AQIM”) and worked closely with the leaders of the two armed groups and in the context of the structures and institutions established by them.  After a warrant of arrest  issued by Pre-Trial Chamber I on 18 September 2015, Mr Al Mahdi was surrendered to the ICC on 26 September 2015. On 24 March 2016, shortly after a plea agreement was made, Pre-Trial Chamber I confirmed against the war crime charge of destroying historical and religious monuments in Timbuktu (Mali), and committed Mr Al Mahdi to trial. The trial was held during three days in August 2016, making this case and today’s judgment  the quickest in ICC history.

PHAP lecture on cultural property

On Thursday 29 September 2016, PHAP has a timely lecture on Protection of Cultural Heritage in Armed Conflicts as part of its Online Learning Series on Humanitarian Law and Policy:

In addition to the loss of human life and creating severe humanitarian crises, the destruction of cultural heritage has played a prominent role in the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and in the recent conflict in Mali. For example, this issue recently came into the spotlight in September 2015, when the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor’s Office opened the first ever war crime case for destruction of cultural heritage during the 2012 military coup d’état in Mali, where rebel groups considerably damaged Timbuktu’s cultural sites and historical monuments.

In this learning session, Kristin Hausler of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL) will provide an introduction to the current legal frameworks that protect cultural heritage during both international and non-international armed conflicts, and how they apply to state actors and non-state armed groups.

You can register here. A related article by Ms Hausler on destruction of cultural heritage by armed groups can be found here.

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