[JURIST] The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Tuesday sentenced [judgment, PDF] a Malian jihadist to nine years of imprisonment for overseeing the destruction of Muslim shrines in Timbuktu, Mali. Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi [case information, PDF] admitted his guilt [JURIST report] when his trial began in August. This is a historic case, marking the first time the ICC has tried and convicted someone for committing the war crime of demolishing religious buildings and historical monuments. In determining a nine-year sentence, the court acknowledged that while crimes against property are grave, they are not as grave as crimes against persons. However, the destroyed shrines had been UNESCO World Heritage [official website] sites, and the mosques and mausoleums of saints were fundamental parts of the religious life of the Mali community and cultural heritage.
The danger to world heritage sites and other important landmarks in Mali is not the only concern among the international community regarding the country. Mali has been facing a humanitarian crisis since 2012 that has raised graver international concerns. In May 2012 Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released a report saying that Mali was facing its worst human rights crisis [JURIST report] since it gained independence in 1960. Human Rights Watch released a similar report in April 2012 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 expressed concern [JURIST report] over the situation, including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official website], then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees [official website]. All of this came after Malian soldiers took control of the government [JURIST report] and suspended the constitution in March 2012.