Destruction of Muslim mausoleums in Timbuktu: ICC’s first cultural destruction trial to open in The Hague

The international criminal court’s first war crimes trial for destruction of cultural monuments opens this week against a jihadi leader accused of demolishing ancient mausoleums in Timbuktu.

Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi is accused of levelling medieval shrines, tombs of Sufi saints and a mosque dating back to the 15th century that formed part of the Unesco world heritage site in the northern Malian city.

The decision by the court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to make obliteration of heritage a priority in dealing with the aftermath of Mali’s conflict may prove controversial in Africa but is likely to boost the ICC’s international profile.