ICC war crimes verdict for Timbuktu jihad police chiefWed, 26 Jun 2024 02:46:16 GMT

The International Criminal Court on Wednesday will issue a verdict in the case of a jihadist police chief accused of “unimaginable crimes” during an alleged reign of terror and sexual slavery in the fabled Malian city of Timbuktu.Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud, 46, is accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including torture, rape and sexual slavery, and destroying religious and historic buildings.Prosecutors say Al Hassan personally oversaw amputations and floggings as police chief when Islamic militants seized control of Timbuktu for almost a year from early 2012.During the trial, which opened in 2020, prosecutors said Timbuktu citizens had lived in fear of “despicable” violence, citing the case of a man whose hand was amputated after being accused of petty theft.”He was tied to a chair… and his hand was chopped off with a machete. A member of the armed group then held up his hand as a signal to others,” said then-chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.Bensouda said the women and girls of Timbuktu suffered most under the “gender-based persecution” in force under Al Hassan’s alleged reign of terror.He is accused of forcing women and girls to “marry” fighters, with some victims raped multiple times, according to prosecutors.Prosecutors said he was “personally involved” in flogging women accused of adultery. Other women were allegedly beaten for what the Islamists saw as misdemeanours such as not wearing gloves.Al Hassan himself told investigators that the people of Timbuktu were “scared out of their minds”, according to the prosecutor.- ‘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.Al Hassan is the second Malian jihadist tried at 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, reduced by two years on appeal in 2021.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 for 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”.