ICC judges have made legal history by ruling that a former Islamist rebel is liable to pay compensation for the destruction of ancient shrines in Mali's Timbuktu. The historic sites were destroyed by jihadists in 2012.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) ruled on Thursday that former jihadi rebel Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, the man convicted of ordering the attack on the ancient landmarks in Timbuktu, was liable to pay "individual, collective and symbolic" reparations of up to $3.2 million (2.7 million euros).
Al-Mahdi was jailed last September for nine years by the Hague-based court after he pleaded guilty to "intentionally" directing attacks on nine historic Timbuktu mausoleums and its Sidi Yahia mosque - works dating back to the 15th century. The jihadists used pickaxes and bulldozers on the buildings.
The destruction of the shrines prompted global outcry and condemnation, but also set a legal precedent.
Al-Mahdi was the first person to be convicted by the ICC on Islamist-related charges. He was also the first person to be convicted of destroying cultural heritage.
In its ruling, the ICC said that its reparations order was based on three categories of harm: "damage to the attacked historic and religious buildings, consequential economic loss, and moral harm." Part of the reparations costs will also go toward individuals whose livelihoods depended on the Timbuktu landmarks and whose ancestors' burial sites were wrecked in the attack.
ICC judge Raul Pangalangan said that attacks such as the ones on the shrines "destroy part of humanity's shared memory and collective consciousness, and renders humanity unable to transmit its values and knowledge to future generations."
Known as the "City of 333 saints," Timbuktu was founded between the fifth and the 12th centuries by indigenous Tuareg tribes. Most of the sites destroyed in 2012 were built in the 14th century, during Mali's golden age as a revered center of Sufi Islam, considered blasphemous by orthodox Islamic groups.
Reparations for victims
The Trust Fund for Victims (TFV), set up implement the judges' reparation rulings, has until February next year to draw up a plan on how the reparations award will be paid, the court said.
Given that al-Mahdi is penniless, it is up to the TFV to allocate the funds, DW's Brussels correspondent Max Hoffmann tweeted.
The TFV has previously cautioned that the security situation in northern Mali "poses serious challenges" to distributing the compensation. They also warned the court that rumors of high compensation could provide an "incentive" for similar attacks in countries with cultural treasures.
dm/kms (AFP, Reuters)