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ICC: Timbuktu destruction to cost Islamist rebel $3.2 million

ICC judges have made legal history by ruling that a former rebel must pay compensation for the destruction of ancient shrines in Mali's Timbuktu. The historic sites were destroyed in 2012.

On Thursday, the International Criminal Court ruled that former rebel Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, the man convicted of ordering the attack on the ancient landmarks in Timbuktu, was required 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 to the 15th century. The group used pickaxes and bulldozers on the buildings.

Read more: Opinion: The Timbuktu destruction trial was groundbreaking

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 such 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 to individuals whose livelihoods depended on the Timbuktu landmarks and whose ancestors' burial sites were wrecked in the attack.

Judge Raul Pangalangan said such attacks "destroy part of humanity's shared memory and collective consciousness, and render 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 groups.

Reparations for victims

The Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) set up implement the judges' reparation rulings has until February next year to draft 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.

Watch video 00:55

The people of Timbuktu react to Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi's guilty plea

dm/kms (AFP, Reuters)

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