The International Criminal Court (ICC) has handed over a symbolic euro to the Government of Mali and UNESCO for damage inflicted on the people of Mali people and the international community by the destruction of cultural properties in Timbuktu in 2012.
The ruling on the award had been handed down in 2016 following a landmark trial before the International Criminal Court, which for the first time charged an individual with war crimes against historic and cultural monuments.
This euro is “an immeasurable symbol of the harm that we all suffered and of our will to say ‘never again’,” Mama Dolite Doubia, who heads a trust fund for victims, said at a ceremony in the Malian capital Bamako.
Fatou Bensouda, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, said the case r epresented the international community’s commitment to “defend the foundation of our common identity.”
She said Mali’s cultural heritage “is a mirror of humanity” and such attacks would not go unpunished.
The Hague-based ICC in 2016 sentenced Ahmad al Faqi al Mahdi to nine years in prison for leading jihadists who destroyed nine mausoleums.
He was a member of Ansar Eddine — one of the extremist groups that oversaw a reign of terror in the fabled city for almost a year from early 2012.
Dubbed “The City of 333 saints”, Timbuktu’s shrines were built in the 15th and 16th centuries when the city was revered as a centre of Islamic learning and a spiritual hub.
The jihadists were angered by the long-held practice of worshipping at the shrines, which they considered idolatrous.
The ICC found that Mahdi was liable for 2.7 million euros ($3.17 million) in damages which it said should go to the local community protecting the sites.
The shrines were placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 1988.
The symbolic euro is a token of the need for redress, even though the amount will never be paid.
The shrines have been restored using traditional methods and local masons, in a project financed by several countries as well as UNESCO.