The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has sentenced Ahmad Al Faqi al Mahdi to nine years’ imprisonment due to his involvement in the destruction of monuments in the UNESCO World Heritage site in Timbuktu in 2012. In this connection, Minister of State Maria Böhmer, Special Representative of the Federal Foreign Office for UNESCO World Heritage, UNESCO Cultural Conventions and UNESCO Education and Science Programmes, issued the following statement today (27 September):
Today’s ruling is a clear signal that violence committed against cultural heritage is investigated and prosecuted internationally. This is the first time that the ICC has treated the destruction of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage as a war crime. Particularly in contentious times such as these, protecting the World Cultural Heritage remains a global challenge which can only be mastered if as many states and organisations as possible play their part.
Germany is supporting the preservation of cultural heritage worldwide. 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. This paradigm shift played a major role in bringing about the trial.
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 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.