Today, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, met with the President of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Silvia Fernandez de Gurmandi, and Deputy Prosecutor James Stewart, to explore ways to deepen cooperation on the protection of cultural heritage and the fight against impunity of war crimes.
“UNESCO and ICC have come a long way together, to strengthen the rule of law, to change the mindset about the destruction of cultural heritage, and we are determined to go further, to end impunity for deliberate destruction of cultural heritage,” said Ms. Bokova.
Immediately after the attacks on the people and heritage of Mali, UNESCO raised the issue of the destruction of the mausoleums to the attention of the Court.
On 1 July, 2012, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda declared that this destruction constituted a war crime under the Rome Statute and then launched a preliminary examination into the violence that had been engulfing the country since January 2012.
The first suspect, Ahmed al-Faqi al-Mahdi, was transferred by the authorities of Mali and Niger to The Hague on 26 September 2015. His trial is scheduled to start on 22 August 2016.
The case of Mali made history in the fight against impunity – recognizing the restoration of justice and the rule of law as an essential step of any recovery process. This sets a historic precedent for similar cases in the future.
In this spirit, UNESCO and the ICC are sharing expertise and information about the importance of the sites, about why they were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and the reason why their deliberate destruction can be considered a war crime.