ICC convicts Timbuktu jihad police chief of war crimesWed, 26 Jun 2024 14:24:43 GMT

The International Criminal Court on Wednesday convicted a jihadist police chief of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during a reign of terror in the fabled Malian city of Timbuktu.Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud, 46, was found guilty of crimes including torture and outrages upon personal dignity.Presiding judge Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua said Al Hassan played a “key role” overseeing amputations and floggings as police chief when Islamic militants seized control of Timbuktu for almost a year from early 2012.A timetable for his sentencing will be handed down soon.Dressed in a yellow robe and white headdress, Al Hassan sat impassively throughout the nearly two-hour verdict with arms folded.Al Hassan was also involved in interrogations where torture was used to extract confessions, Mindua said.Mindua laid out in detail the reign of terror under the militants in Timbuktu, including women being arrested then raped in detention.”The inhabitants had no other choice but to adapt their lives and lifestyles to conform to the interpretation of Islamic Sharia law… imposed on them by the force of arms,” said Mindua.Mindua described brutal floggings in the central square in front of crowds including children, as well as a public amputation by machete.Al Hassan was convicted of “contributing to the crimes perpetrated by other members” of the jihadist groups including mutilation and persecution. He was however acquitted of the war crimes of rape and sexual slavery, as well as the crime against humanity of forced marriage.He was also acquitted of the war crime of attacking protected objects.Despite the acquittals, deputy prosecutor Mame Mandiaye Niang said he was “pleased with the verdict, which proved the accused was guilty of a certain number of charges.” “I am thinking of the victims and I say again in the name of the prosecutor… that we will stay by their side, study the verdict carefully and that next steps… will be so that a more complete justice is given to these victims,” he added. – ‘Pearl of the desert’ -Founded between the fifth and 12th centuries by Tuareg tribes, Timbuktu is known as the “Pearl of the Desert” and “The City of 333 Saints” for the number of Muslim sages buried there during a golden age of Islam.But jihadists who swept into the city considered the shrines idolatrous and destroyed them with pickaxes and bulldozers.The militants from the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar Dine groups exploited an ethnic Tuareg uprising in 2012 to take over cities in Mali’s volatile north.On Friday, the ICC made public an arrest warrant for one of the Sahel’s top jihadist leaders over alleged atrocities in Timbuktu from 2012 to 2013.Iyad Ag Ghaly is considered to be the leader of the Al-Qaeda-linked Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), which operates in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.Also known as “Abou Fadl”, Ag Ghaly is wanted on suspicion of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Timbuktu, the ICC said.These included murder, rape and sexual slavery, and attacks on buildings dedicated as religious and historic monuments.Judges issued the warrant against Ag Ghaly in mid-2017, but the document has been kept under wraps for the past seven years because of “potential risks to witnesses and victims”.