UNESCO Director-General and ICC President reaffirm joint commitment to end impunity for deliberate destruction of heritage
14.06.2016 – ODG
On an official visit to the International Criminal Court, the Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, held a bilateral working meetings with President Ms Silvia Fernandez de Gurmandi, and deputy prosecutor James Stewart, to explore ways to deepen cooperation on the protection of cultural heritage and the fight against impunity of war crimes.
“UNESCO and ICC have come a long way together, to strengthen the rule of law, to change the mindset about the destruction of cultural heritage, and we are determined to go further, to end impunity for deliberate destruction of cultural heritage,” said Irina Bokova.
“The case of Mali is important in demonstrating that attacks on cultural heritage in conflict can be effectively investigated and prosecuted through judicial mechanisms.” said President Silvia Fernandez de Gurmand
Immediately after the deliberate attacks on the people and Heritage of Mali, UNESCO raised the issue of the destruction of the Mausoleums to the attention of the Court. On 1 July, 2012, Ms Fatou Bensouda, ICC Prosecutor, declared that this destruction constituted a war crime under the Rome Statute and then launched a preliminary examination into the violence that had been engulfing the country since January 2012. The first suspect, Mr Ahmed al-Faqi al-Mahdi, was transferred by the authorities of Mali and Niger to The Hague on 26 September, 2015.
The case of Mali is a historic precedent in the fight against impunity – recognizing the restoration of justice and the rule of law as an essential step of any recovery process. This sets a historic precedent for similar cases in the future, and that is why it is vital that all aspects of the trial are addressed with extreme care and a sense of justice.
It is in this spirit that UNESCO and the ICC are sharing expertise and information about the importance of the sites, about why they were inscribed on the World Heritage list, and the reason why their deliberate destruction can be considered a war crime.
“The destruction of culture is one element of a global strategy of hatred, and the fight against impunity and respect for the rule of law must must be part and parcel in a broader vision for peace.” Said the Directo-General. This calls for a stronger coordination among all partners working in different fields and between the security, humanitarian, and cultural domains. The cooperation between UNESCO and the ICC plays an important role in this regard.