Trial Chamber X of the International Criminal Court began the trial Tuesday of Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud for crimes allegedly committed in Mali between 2012 and 2013 when he was a member of the militant Islamist group Ansar Dine. Al Hassan is accused of religious and gender-based persecution, committing war crimes, demolishing shrines, and crimes against humanity, including rape, torture, and sexual slavery.
The charges stem from Al Hassan’s actions in Timbuktu, Mali when Ansar Dine and its allies, al Qaeda and the amalgamated Islamic Maghreb movement, led a series of attacks on the region’s civilian population. Their goal was to destabilize Mali’s government and establish an Islamic theocracy. Al Hassan is considered to have been the region’s de facto chief of the Islamic religious police and to have played a central role in the local Islamic court’s work.
Al Hassan had previously been transferred to the ICC and has been in court custody since March 2018. Last year, he appealed to the ICC’s Appeals Chamber, challenging a 2019 Pre-Trial Chamber decision regarding the severity of the charges and case against him. The Appeals Chamber decided to reject his appeal and confirmed the Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision in February of 2019.
In court Tuesday, Al Hassan refused to enter a plea to the charges brought against him. Following defense submissions, the court has ordered a medical examination to test his fitness to stand trial.
The next stage in the trial, presentation of evidence, is scheduled to begin on August 25, 2020.