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Protection of the cultural property under the international criminal court: a case study


Recently, in Prosecutor v. Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi case, the International Criminal Court (hereinafter ICC) convicted a member of a Malian jihadist organization for the war crime of “intentionally directing attacks against 10 buildings of a religious and historical character in Timbuktu, Mali” during conflict there in 2012. But even though this conviction for the sole crime of intentionally targeting cultural heritage — the first of its kind by the ICC — has rightly been lauded as a victory for the court and for cultural heritage law, it is likely to ring rather hollow as a precedent, in that the opinion provides only minimal guidance for future cases. The ICC’s reluctance to define the scope of the Rome Statute’s protection for cultural heritage more broadly, or alternatively to sound the alarm regarding certain inadequacies in its coverage, renders the symbolic and precedential value of the case less potent than it might have been. Although, the ICC deals with the protection of the Cultural Property which is also a protected property under the International Humanitarian Law still in the case, AL Mahdi was charged with “the destruction of irreplaceable historic monuments and these attacks are a callous assault on the dignity and identity of entire populations, and their religious and historical roots.”This paper explains the definition of cultural property under the modern international law and also the analytical study of the AL Mahdi case, appended with the challenges of ICC in future.


Cultural property, International Criminal Court