At 8am on Saturday, 26 September 2015, Ahmad Al Faqi, one of the architects of the violence in Timbuktu, Mali in 2012 which saw the repression of the local population and the destruction of numerous ancient shrines, arrived at the International Criminal Court’s detention centre in the Hague after having been surrendered by the authorities in Niger.
Cloisters’ Sheryn Omeri was a member of the ICC’s Mali team which investigated and analysed the situation in Mali and ultimately drafted the application for a warrant of arrest for Al Faqi, when she was based in the Hague from April to July this year.
The city of Timbuktu is listed as a Unesco world heritage site and was vital to the development of Islamic scholarship in Africa from the 14th century.
Al Faqi was a member of the local islamist organisation, Ansar Dine, which has links to Al Qaeda. He is accused of having intentionally directed attacks against buildings dedicated to religion and historical monuments, which is listed as a war crime in Article 8 of the Rome Statute. His will be the ICC’s first ever prosecution for such a crime in its 13-year existence. It does not come too soon, in view of the recent destruction by ISIS of the ancient city of Palmyra and its killing of Khaled Asaad, Syrian antiquities expert who had dedicated 50 years of his life to studying and restoring Palmyra.
Al Faqi will be brought before the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC for his first appearance this week when the arrest warrant which secured his arrival at the Hague will be unsealed.