[QODLink]
Africa
ICC threatens Mali Islamists with war crimes
Chief prosecutor says she may investigate Ansar Dine group for destroying tombs of ancient Muslim saints.
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2012 16:37

The International Criminal Court has threatened Islamist fighters in Mali with legal action if they do not halt their destruction of ancient Islamic monuments.

"My message to those involved in these criminal acts is clear: stop the destruction of the religious buildings now," Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told the AFP news agency in an interview. "This is a war crime which my office has authority to fully investigate."

She said that Mali was a signatory to the Rome Statute, a document that established the ICC and states that deliberate attacks against undefended civilian buildings which are not military objectives are a war crime.

"This includes attacks against historical monuments as well as destruction of buildings dedicated to religion," Bensouda said.

Members of the group Ansar Dine have destroyed the mausoleums of Sufi saints in historic Timbuktu for two straight days.

Yaya Tandina, a local journalist, told the Reuters news agency that about 30 members of the group, armed with Kalashnikovs and pickaxes destroyed three mausoleums of saints on Sunday.

"They had armed men guarding the door. Just like yesterday, the population did not react. They said we need to let them do what they want, hoping that someday we will rebuild the tombs," Tandina said.

Al Jazeera speaks to UNESCO about pressure tactics

Seven ancient tombshave been smashed by Ansar Dine since Saturday. The group's strict interpretation of Islam considers such places unholy and calls for their destruction.

The demolitions began on Saturday with Timbuktu's independence monument, which depicts Al Farouk, a symbol of the ancient city on a horse.

Ansar Dine have also threatened to destroy the city's three ancient mosques, one of which dates back to 1327.

Sanda Ould Boumama, an Ansar Dine spokesman, has said the group was acting in the name of God and would "destroy every mausoleum in the city. All of them, without exception".

The destruction comes after UNESCO listed the city as an endangered site because of the continuing violence in northern Mali and in the wake of an attack on a fifteenth century tomb in May.

"God is unique. All of this is haram [forbidden]. We are all Muslims. UNESCO is what," said Boumama.

The government of Mali has urged the outside world to take concrete steps to stop the destruction of the sites.

"Those who are destroying religious buildings in Timbuktu should do so in full knowledge that they will be held accountable and justice will prevail," she said.

506

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Israel's Operation Protective Edge is the third major offensive on the Gaza Strip in six years.
Muslims and Arabs in the US say they face discrimination in many areas of life, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks.
At one UN site alone, approximately four children below the age of five are dying each day.
Featured
More than fifty years of an armed struggle for independence from Spain might be coming to an end in the Basque Country.
After the shooting-down of flight MH17, relatives ask what the carrier has learned from still-missing MH370.
Human rights and corporate responsibility prompt a US church to divest from companies doing business with Israel.
Afghan militias have accumulated a lengthy record of human-rights abuses, including murders and rapes.
Growing poverty is strengthening a trend among UK Muslims to fund charitable work closer to home.
join our mailing list