ICC delays verdict on Mali Islamist warlordMon, 15 Jan 2024 15:40:08 GMT

The International Criminal Court said Monday it was delaying its verdict in the war crimes trial of a Malian Islamist leader, as the head judge is unavailable for health reasons.The ICC gave no new date for the ruling in the case of Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud, accused of torture, rape and sexual slavery through forced marriages, as well as destroying mausoleums in Timbuktu.”In light of the current health situation of Judge Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua, Presiding Judge of the Chamber, who is temporarily unavailable, the Chamber has no option but to vacate the hearing previously scheduled,” said the ICC. “The Chamber will convey updated information at the earliest opportunity,” added the ICC in its statement.The trial of the 46-year-old father of five opened in 2020, with the ruling originally slated to be handed down on Thursday.The prosecution called 52 witnesses, while the defence called 22. Lawyers representing 2,196 alleged victims called a further two witnesses.Prosecutors said Al Hassan committed “unimaginable crimes” as a key figure in the police system set up by Islamic militants for almost a year from 2012.He is accused of personally overseeing floggings and amputations while arranging for women and girls to be forced to marry militants.The ancient city of Timbuktu, once known as the “city of 333 saints” for the Muslim holy men buried there, was subject to major destruction while under the control of jihadists in 2012 and 2013.Al Hassan is the second Malian jihadist tried by the ICC for destroying religious sanctuaries in Timbuktu, which is inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.  The court sentenced Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi in 2016 to nine years in prison, which was reduced by two years on appeal in 2021.