Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Timbuktu & international criminal law

(credit for July 1, 2012, image)
'The crimes of the rebels in Timbuktu mirror those of the Taliban in 2001, when it declared that the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan were idolatrous and destroyed them. The field of international criminal law has matured significantly since then, following the establishment of the I.C.C. and the attainment of various jurisprudential milestones through the decisions of the tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. It is now necessary to use these legal tools to hold the Ansar Dine, both as a group and as individuals, accountable for the destruction of property belonging to the universal heritage of humanity.'
So write Guled Yusuf, associate at Clifford Chance in London, and Lucas Bento, an associate at Quinn Emanuel in New York, in "The 'End Times' for Timbuktu?", an op-ed published in today's International Herald Tribune. The authors recount the destruction of cultural heritage under way in the north of Mali – site of turmoil about which we've posted here and here – and compare it to destruction in Afghanistan mentioned in Keina Yoshida's post earlier this week.
(credit for 2006 photo)
Their reference to the International Criminal Court is notable, given that a fortnight ago ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced preliminary examination into Mali, based on a state referral. (Concerns about that referral have been voiced by our colleagues, here and here.)
Earlier, on the 1st of last month – shortly after the onset of destruction of a UNESCO World Heritage Site (right), buildings sacred to one Muslim sect but not another – Bensouda said in a statement to Agence France-Presse (video here):
'Deliberate attacks against undefended civilian buildings which are not military objectives is a war crime. This includes attacks against historical monuments as well as destruction of buildings dedicated to religion. My message to those involved in these criminal acts is clear: Stop the destruction of the religious buildings now. This is a war crime, which my office has authority to fully investigate.'

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