UNESCO hails ‘landmark’ Mali shrines attack verdict

Timbuktu was a centre of Islamic learning during its golden age in the 15th and 16th centuries/AFP-File

, Paris, France, Sept 27 – UNESCO on Tuesday applauded the International Criminal Court for jailing a Malian jihadist who destroyed ancient shrines in Timbuktu, calling the sentence a “landmark” decision for the preservation of heritage.

The United Nations’ scientific, cultural and educational body also said the nine-year sentence for Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi was a “major step towards peace and reconciliation in Mali”.

“The decision of the International Criminal Court is a landmark in gaining recognition for the importance of heritage for humanity as a whole and for the communities that have preserved it over the centuries,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said.

“It also supports UNESCO’s conviction that heritage has a major role to play in reconstruction and peace building,” she said.

Judges at the court in The Hague found Mahdi guilty of directing the 2012 attacks on the shrines in northern Mali, which are classified as a UNESCO world heritage site.

The verdict is the first to focus solely on cultural destruction as a war crime.

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