Impunity for war crimes against cultural heritage must stop

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Timbuktu, Mali
© UNESCO
26 September 2015

New York, 26 September — The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, today welcomed transfer of an alleged extremist to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to be tried for destroying religious and historical monuments in Mali.

"I commend Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and the authorities of Mali and Niger for transferring the first suspect to the ICC accused of the war crime of the intentional destruction of historic monuments and buildings in Timbuktu, Mali," said the Director-General.

The suspect was transferred from Niger to the ICC, under accusation for the war crime set forth in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Article 8 (2)(e)(iv), which qualifies as war crimes direct attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, and historic monuments.

UNESCO led a global movement decrying the ‎destruction of the mausoleums and monuments in the city of Timbuktu, Mali, when it fell in the hands of violent extremism in 2012.

"UNESCO kept its promise to rebuild the mausoleums of Timbuktu," said Irina Bokova, following her visit in Mali in July this year to mark the reconstruction of the destroyed mausoleums. UNESCO has been working with the Government and local community in Mali and Timbuktu to restore and rebuild the destroyed mausoleums.

"The cultural heritage of Mali belongs to all humanity. It is vital that the criminals be brought to justice," said the Director General. "This is justice for Mali, the identities and history of its people -- this is justice for all women and men everywhere."

‎"This is the first such case and it breaks new ground for the protection of humanity's shared cultural heritage and values."

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