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In a historic decision today, the International Criminal Court (ICC) convicted an individual who destroyed cultural heritage of committing a war crime. Judges sentenced Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, a member of an Al Qaeda–linked jihadist group, to 9–11 years for attacking nine centuries-old Muslim shrines and a mosque in Timbuktu. As the head of a morality brigade for the group Ansar Dine, Mahdi played a key role in planning the 2012 destructions, considering the mausoleums blasphemous according to Islamic codes. His trial, which began in February, was the first of its kind undertaken by the international court.
“The mausoleums of saints and mosques of Timbuktu were an integral part of the religious life of its inhabitants and constitute a common heritage for the community,” the ICC wrote in a statement. “They reflected their commitment to Islam and played a psychological role to the extent of being perceived as protecting the people of Timbuktu. Furthermore, all the sites but one were UNESCO World Heritage sites. As such, the attacks on them appear to be of particular gravity as their destruction does not only affect the direct victims of the crimes but also people throughout Mali and the international community.”
The court’s decision sets an important precedent of holding people accountable for organized attacks on heritage sites and objects, regarding such acts as offenses against humanity. Individuals and organizations from the United Nations to UNESCO have previously expressed similar views towards ISIS’s destruction of cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq — neither of which is a member of the International Criminal Court. According to the New York Times, Afghanistan also does not fall under the jurisdiction of the court, which means the Taliban’s destruction of the sixth-century Buddhas of Bamiyan there could not be prosecuted.
Madhi, who pled guilty to committing a war crime, was the first jihadist to appear in an international court. Prosecutors hope his groundbreaking sentence may deter future attacks on heritage sites around the world, particularly with so many under threat from extremist groups. In the words of UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, the ICC decision is “a crucial step to end impunity for the destruction of cultural heritage.
“It confirms earlier decisions taken by international jurisdictions, and it amplifies them in a judgment entirely devoted to the destruction of cultural heritage,” she said in a statement. “This case reminds us all of how heritage protection has become a major security issue, which cannot be delinked from the protection of human lives.”
Poussin and the Dance is a valiant attempt to break into Poussin’s staunchly academic oeuvre and provide a relatable point of entry, highlighting the exciting elements of revelry and movement despite impenetrable and unemotional rendering.
Anarchist illustrator N.O. Bonzo produces decentralized media in a highly bureaucratic cultural landscape. Their illustrations, murals, and literature emerge in unexpected places, from the streets of Portland, Oregon, to the far ends of Reddit and Twitter, addressing relations of labor and identity in the workplace and on the streets. Growth and care are central themes…
This exhibition explores how images of the human body were used to provoke profound physical and emotional responses in viewers from the 15th through 18th centuries.
With scavenged materials, Amanda Maciel Antunes constructs a motherland.
Where are the directors taking the stage to acknowledge workers’ demands today?
The collaborative handmade paper- and printmaking center at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts publishes new works by Liz Collins and Sarah McEneaney.
There is a debate whether the memory of Little Syria should be seized upon to tell truthful and positive stories about Arabs in the US, or whether any conflation between its history and contemporary politics is inappropriate.
The profile includes works by Egon Schiele, Amedeo Modigliani, Peter Paul Rubens, and a prehistoric Venus of Willendorf figurine.
These horrifying dolls definitely won’t murder you in your sleep.