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.
 


Indonesia targets ‘virus’ of religious radicalization

Indonesia’s Vice President Ma’ruf Amin says the government is on a quest to stop the spread of radicalism. (AN photo by Yudhi Sukma Wijaya)
Updated 25 February 2020

Indonesia targets ‘virus’ of religious radicalization

  • Vice President Ma’ruf Amin shares concern over former Indonesian Daesh members who want to return home
  • There are 600 former jail inmates under observation of national counterterrorism agency BNPT

JAKARTA: The Indonesian government has decided not to repatriate hundreds of citizens who joined Daesh in a bid to counter the rise of radicalization in its society.

President Joko Widodo said on Feb. 12 that the government was prioritizing the security of its 260 million population by reducing their exposure to terrorist attacks from those who had fought for Daesh.
Indonesia has experienced a number of attacks by people linked to militant groups that support Daesh. Recent attacks include a suicide bombing at a police headquarters in November and an attack on the then-chief security minister, Wiranto — a retired general who like many Indonesians uses one name — who was stabbed in the abdomen last October by a man affiliated to a Daesh-supporting network.
Chief Security Minister Mohammad Mahfud MD said that there were 689 people in camps in Syria — most of them women and children — who said they come from Indonesia, based on data provided by the CIA, the the Red Cross and other agencies.
The government will consider on a case-by-case basis whether to repatriate children aged 10 or younger, and based on whether they have parents or are orphaned.
Mahfud said that the government was concerned that if foreign terrorist fighters were repatriated they could become a dangerous new “virus” for the country.
Indonesians who had been repatriated from Syria have to take part in a government-sponsored deradicalization program for a month.
In addition, the national counterterrorism agency BNPT has rolled out deradicalization programs for terror convicts incarcerated in more than 100 correctional facilities. It continues to monitor at least 600 former jail inmates who have served their terms and are undertaking empowerment programs to prevent them from rejoining fellow militants.
Vice President Ma’ruf Amin has been tasked with the responsibility of coordinating efforts to take on radicalization. His credentials as a senior Muslim cleric are expected to carry weight in countering the spread of hardline Islamic teachings.

INNUMBERS

260m - Total population of Indonesia.

689 - Number of people in Syrian camps who say they are from Indonesia.

600 - Number of inmates under observation of national counterterrorism agency BNPT.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, septuagenarian Amin, who is chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council, although in an inactive capacity, acknowledged his background as a religious figure was the reason why President Widodo assigned him to the task.
“We want to instill a sense of religious moderation and develop a nationalist commitment,” he said.
He added that the government did not want former Daesh members who claimed to be Indonesians bringing “a plague” to the country, becoming “a new source of radicalism” if they were repatriated.
The government uses the term “radical terrorism” to avoid confusion with other types of radicalism.

Hundreds of Indonesians joined Daesh in Syria, to fight against President Bashar Assad. (Getty)

Amin said that prevention and law enforcement were required to combat terrorism. While Indonesia has gained international recognition for its counterterrorism efforts, there remains much to do to curb the spread of radical terrorism, he said.
“If radicalism turns into action, it could become terrorism, so we begin from their way of thinking and we realign their intolerant thoughts, which are the source of radicalism. We deradicalize those who have been exposed,” Amin said.
There are five provinces where the spread of radicalism and terrorism have been particularly being targeted: Aceh, Riau, Central Sulawesi, West Kalimantan and East Java.
Amin said that the government was on a quest to prevent the spread of religious radicalism in Indonesia.
“The cause of terrorism and radicalism could be triggered by religious teachings, the economic situation, injustice, therefore it takes a comprehensive approach from upstream to downstream,” Amin said.
A coordinated approach involves various government agencies and institutions, and begins with early childhood education through to college.
“We want to instill religious moderation, a sense of nationalism and patriotism and introduce Pancasila into early childhood education,” Amin said, referring to the country’s foundation principles.
According to the Global Threat Landscape report issued in January by Singapore’s International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), deradicalization programs targeting women and children are necessary given the growing number of women involved in terrorist activities. The programs need to be different to those provided for male militants.
The report found that family networks which include wives would continue to play a part in militant activities in Indonesia this year. Family units are likely to be involved in future attacks as some pro-Daesh families have indoctrinated their children with its ideology.
Previous attacks have seen women and children involved in attacks such as the suicide bombing in Surabaya targeting churches and a police headquarters in 2018.
Asked if the BNPT efforts have been enough to counter radicalization in Indonesia, Amin said that the program was on track, but in the future the government aimed to have a more focused target supported by cooperation with government agencies.
 “We expect the results would be much better than what has been achieved so far,” he said.