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ICC chief prosecutor calls for end to destruction of Mali religious shrines

International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website; JURIST backgrounder ] Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda [official profile] on Sunday told reporters that attacks by Islamist rebels on religious monuments in Mali [JURIST news archive] will not be tolerated. Bensouda said that the rebels' destruction of tombs of ancient Muslim saints in Timbuktu may amount to war crimes. The rebels said the saints' tombs are idolatrous. Bensouda said the destruction of the religious and historical landmarks is a violation of the Rome Statute [text] and called on the rebels to end attacks [AFP report] on such buildings. She also urged the international community to continue to provide support to Mali as violence escalates. She said that her office would investigate the actions of the rebels and consider charges.

Recent violence in Mali has raised international concern. In May, Amnesty International released a report saying that Mali is facing its worst human rights crisis [JURIST report] since it gained independence in 1960. Human Rights Watch released a similar report in April claiming that all sides to the conflict are committing war crimes [JURIST report]. Earlier in April the ICC said they would monitor the situation [JURIST report] in Mali for potential crimes under the ICC's jurisdiction. The turmoil began when Taureg rebels attacked Malian soldiers [Al Jazeera report]. Many in the international community have expressed concern over the situation, including the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) [JURIST reports]. All of this has come after Malian soldiers took control of the government [JURIST report] and suspended the constitution in March.

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