Malian militant in court for war crimes on Wednesday

The entrance of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is seen in The Hague, Netherlands on Tuesday. (REUTERS)
Updated 04 April 2018

Malian militant in court for war crimes on Wednesday

  • Mass grave found in Mali as concerns about military grow
  • Amnesty calls on Mali to probe extrajudicial killings

THE HAGUE: A Malian jihadist will make a first appearance Wednesday before the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges over the destruction of holy sites and sex slavery, the tribunal said.
Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud “will be informed of the charges against him” at the hearing, the Hague-based ICC said in a statement on Tuesday.
During the initial appearance, scheduled for 1300 GMT at the court’s fortress-like headquarters, judges are to verify Al-Hassan’s identity and the language in which he’ll be able to follow procedures.
Al-Hassan, 40, was arrested over the weekend and handed over by Malian authorities. He arrived at the ICC’s detention center late Saturday.
He faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity over the destruction of the holy shrines of Timbuktu between 2012 and 2013 as well as accusations of rape and forced marriage.
Al-Hassan’s arrest came four days after the court issued an international warrant for his capture.

Prosecutors allege that he “committed crimes against humanity and war crimes in Timbuktu, Mali, between April 2012 and January 2013.”
A member of the Ansar Dine jihadist group, Al-Hassan was the “de facto chief of the jihadist police” in Timbuktu, the ICC said.
Hassan allegedly “participated in the policy of forced marriages which victimized the female inhabitants of Timbuktu and led to repeated rapes and the sexual enslavement of women and girls,” the court added.
His detention “sends a strong message to all those, wherever they are, who commit crimes which shock the conscience of humanity that my office remains steadfast in the pursuit of its mandate,” chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said shortly after his transfer to the ICC.
“The charges against him are representative of the criminality and resulting victimization of the population during this period,” Bensouda added.
Rights groups Tuesday hailed his arrest, with the International Federation for Human Rights calling it a “great relief” to victims.
“This is especially when the situation in the center and north, including in Timbuktu, deteriorates with the resurgence of violence attributed to armed groups of terrorists,” the victims’ lawyer Moctar Mariko said.

Al-Hassan will be the second extremist to face trial at the ICC, following an earlier landmark ruling at the world’s only permanent war crimes court.
War crimes judges in 2016 jailed another Malian who had pleaded guilty to demolishing Timbuktu’s fabled shrines in 2012.
That was the court’s first case to focus on cultural destruction as a war crime.
The ICC’s judges found Ahmad Al-Faqi Al-Mahdi guilty of directing attacks on the UNESCO world heritage site during the jihadist takeover of northern Mali in 2012.
Mahdi was sentenced to nine years behind bars in September 2016 for his role in the razing of Timbuktu’s holy shrines, built in the 15th and 16th centuries when the city was revered as a center of Islamic learning.
For extremists however, its moderate form of Islam is seen as idolatrous.
Hassan, a member of the Tuareg tribe, however has been further charged with “persecution on both religious and gender grounds; rape and sexual slavery committed in the context of forced marriages; torture and other inhuman acts,” the court said.
The ICC opened in 2002 to try the world’s worst crimes in places where national courts are unable or unwilling to prosecute alleged perpetrators.
The landmark 2016 verdict by the ICC against Mahdi was the first arising out of the conflict in Mali, and the first time a jihadist had sat in the dock at the court.

Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

Updated 01 October 2020

Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

  • Senior BJP officials acquitted of conspiracy to destroy historic Muslim place of worship

NEW DELHI: A special court in the northern Indian city of Lucknow on Wednesday acquitted all 32 politicians and senior leaders from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of conspiring to demolish the 16th-century Babri Mosque in 1992, ruling that the move was not “preplanned.”

Muslims described the judgment as “yet another betrayal by the judiciary.”

The BJP under the leadership of then-party president Lal Krishna Advani led a political campaign in the late 1980s and early 1990s to build a temple on the site of the disputed 16th-century mosque in the eastern city of Ayodhya, claiming that it was built by the first Mughal ruler Babar. 

On Dec. 6, 1992, in response to a call by BJP leaders, hundreds of Hindu extremists gathered at the disputed site and demolished the mosque, resulting in religious riots across the country that claimed more than 2,000 lives.

Most of the BJP leaders and its affiliates were blamed for razing the Babri Mosque.

However, on Wednesday, Surendra Kumar Yadav, the judge at the special court, said that the demolition of the 500-year-old mosque was not pre-planned.

“They have been acquitted for lack of evidence,” defense lawyer K.K. Mishra said after the verdict.

Muslims reacted to the verdict with disappointment.

“The judgment pronounced by the special CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) court is wrong. We will appeal in the high court,” Zafaryab Jilani, general secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said.

The BJP was elated with the court’s decision.

“It is a moment of happiness for all of us; we chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ (Hail Ram) after the court’s verdict. The judgment vindicates my personal and BJP’s belief and commitment toward the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement. Along with millions of my countrymen, I now look forward to the completion of the beautiful Shri Ram Mandir (temple) at Ayodhya,” 92-year-old Advani, one of the accused in the case, said.

Another BJP leader and former party president, Murli Manohar Joshi, who was also among the accused, called the judgment “historic.”

“This proves that no conspiracy was hatched for the incident in Ayodhya. Our program and rallies were not part of any conspiracy,” Joshi, 86, said.

The verdict comes 10 months after the Supreme Court’s controversial judgment giving the disputed land to a Hindu trust and awarding five acres of land to Muslim petitioners to build a structure of their choice at another location in the city.

“It’s a betrayal by the court,” Ayodhya-based Hajji Mahboob, one of the original Muslim petitioners, told Arab News.

“So many BJP leaders have claimed openly that they were involved in demolishing the Babri Mosque. If the court gives this kind of one-sided verdict, I can only say that it is compromised,” he said.

“We know that there cannot be any justice for Muslims in this country because all the decisions given by the courts are wrong,” he added.

Reacting to the verdict, the main opposition Congress party said it was “counter to the Supreme Court judgment.” 

The apex court held that the demolition of the Babri mosque was clearly illegal and an “egregious violation of the rule of law.” 

“But the Special Court exonerated all the accused. It is clear that the decision of the Special Court runs counter to the decision of the Supreme Court,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

The demolition of the mosque was “a deep-rooted political conspiracy to destroy the country’s communal amity and brotherhood, and to usurp power at any cost,” he added.

According to Hilal Ahamd, of New Delhi-based think tank Center for the Study of Developing Societies, there is a growing belief among Muslims that India is a Hindu country and “they have to adjust themselves accordingly.”

Meanwhile, former chairman of the minority commission Zafar ul Islam Khan said the verdict will encourage the BJP to take the law into its own hands in the belief that the police and judiciary will protect them.

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi political analyst who has written several books on the Hindu right-wing politics, said: “The demolition of the mosque was a criminal offense and the failure to establish guilt after 28 years is unfortunate.”

He described the verdict as “a betrayal for Muslims and risky for the security of the country if its largest minority keeps getting marginalized like this.”