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Today’s International Criminal Court (ICC) conviction of Ahmad Al Faqi Al-Mahdi, a senior member of the Ansar Eddine armed group, must be the first step towards broader accountability for all crimes committed during Mali’s 2012 conflict, Amnesty International said. 

The ICC sentenced Al-Mahdi to 9 years imprisonment for intentionally directing attacks against religious buildings and historical monuments in the northern town of Timbuktu between June and July 2012. Al-Mahdi admitted his guilt to the court.  

“This verdict is a clear recognition that attacks on religious and historical monuments can destroy the culture and identity of a population and constitute crimes under international law,” said Erica Bussey Amnesty International’s Senior Legal Advisor.

“This positive development should not let us lose sight of the fact that hundreds of civilians were murdered, tortured and raped during the 2012 conflict in Mali. The ICC should therefore continue to investigate crimes committed by all sides to the conflict.”

Although the ICC’s preliminary investigation found that there was a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes including murder, rape and torture had been committed in Mali since 2012, it has not issued any further arrest warrants. Domestic attempts to ensure accountability have also been limited.

Amnesty International considers that it is crucial that the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor, domestic judicial authorities in Mali and the international community as a whole ensure accountability for all crimes under international law, including murder, enforced disappearances, rape and other sexual violence, and torture that have been committed in the country since 2012, including by government forces.