Last weekend the Islamist Group Ansar Eddine (“Defenders of the Faith”) destroyed some of the age-old mausolea of Sufi Saints in Timbuktu. Despite the fact that recently on June 28 2012, these mausolea were placed on the UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger.
This group originates from Tuareg rebels, operating in the Northern part of Mali, and is aiming to impose the Shari’a, Islamic law, in the territory they occupy. They consider these mausolea places of idolatry, which is forbidden in the Koran, see for example Sura 14: 30 : 'They set up false gods …' (The Koran with parallel Arabic Text. Penguin Classics, 1995).
Immediately Mrs Fatou Bensouda, the newly appointed Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague condemned these acts as “War Crimes”. According to Article 8, paragraph 2, e (IV) of the ICC Statute these acts are within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. Mrs Bensouda is considering starting investigation procedures to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Also in the past people have been condemned for destroying cultural property i.e :
- Alfred Rosenberg was convicted of war crimes according to article 6 (b) of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg (1946). He was held responsible for organized plunder of both public and private cultural property throughout the invaded Countries of Europe.
- General Pavle Strugar of the Yugoslav Peoples’ Army was found guilty of violations of the laws or customs of war, specifically the destruction of and willful damage to a number of historical and cultural sites located in the Old Town of Dubrovnik, in Croatia, a site inscribed on the List of World Heritage since 1979, mentioned in Article 3 (d) of the ICTY Statute.
Despite a worldwide outcry of indignation and call for action, these criminals continue to demolish these priceless artefacts till the last of the 333 mausolea is vanished forever.
The International Criminal Court must mobilize all their means of deterrence and punishment to stop these cultural war crimes. This “Cultucide” cannot continue!
A selection of relevant publications from the Peace Palace Library collection
- Brenner, C., "Cultural Property Law: Reflecting on the Bamiyan Buddha's Destruction", Suffolk Transnational Law Review, 29 (2006), No. 2, pp. 237-269.
- Chamberlain, K., War and Cultural Heritage, Leicester, Institute of Art and Law, 2004.
- Toman, J., Cultural Property in War: Improvement in Protection: Commentary on the 1999 Second Protocol to the Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, Paris, Unesco, 2009.