The trial against an alleged main perpetrator of the destruction of monuments in the UNESCO World Heritage site in Timbuktu in 2012 opened at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague today (22 August). Professor Maria Böhmer, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office and Special Representative of the Federal Foreign Office for UNESCO World Heritage, UNESCO Cultural Conventions and UNESCO Education and Science Programmes, issued the following statement on this trial:
“I welcome the opening of the first trial at the ICC on the destruction of world cultural heritage. This means that the destruction of UNESCO world cultural heritage is being treated as a possible war crime.
I am pleased that we were able to do our part in improving the protection of our cultural heritage through the Bonn Declaration of 2015, which I was privileged to adopt as Chairperson of the 39th session of the World Heritage Committee. This paradigm shift played a major role in bringing about the trial.”
In the Bonn Declaration of 2015, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, chaired by Germany, strongly condemned the destruction of world heritage as a possible war crime. In addition, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution presented jointly by Germany and Iraq in 2015 stating that the destruction of world heritage is not justified by any religion. The International Criminal Court is currently holding its first trial on the intentional destruction of a World Heritage site.
The Federal Foreign Office provided support for a clandestine rescue that saved 285,000 precious manuscripts from the World Heritage site in Timbuktu from destruction and transported them to Bamako. The Federal Foreign Office is also supporting international efforts to set up a modern archive in order to safeguard the manuscripts’ rightful place in humanity’s cultural heritage.