Mali hands 'de facto chief of Islamic Police' over to ICC

Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, filed for the arrest of the suspected war criminal on March 20th [File: AP]

A Malian man accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity has been taken into custody in the Netherlands, the International Criminal Court has announced.

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Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud, identified by the ICC as the “de facto chief of Islamic Police” during the conflict five years ago, was handed over by Mali’s authorities and transferred to a detention centre in The Hague, the court said on Saturday.

The suspect, who was active in Timbuktu during 2012 and 2013, is accused of using torture, sexual slavery, and persecution on religious grounds, in addition to extrajudicial sentencings, acts of violence, attacks on religious monuments, and other war crimes.

The court identified Al Hassan as a member of Ansar Dine, an al-Qaeda-linked armed group that sought to establish strict Islamic law in Mali. Several armed groups were accused of committing human rights abuses when they seized control of northern Mali in 2012.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the case reinforced her office’s “commitment to bring forward cases only guided and built on a strong evidentiary foundation”.

As we undertake this work, we continue to have the victims foremost in mind and strive to do what we can so that they may attain the justice they so rightly deserve,” she said.

The court’s actions come as part of an ongoing investigation into war crimes committed in Mali. Last year, the ICC charged former armed group leader, Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, as a key player in the destruction of historic and religious monuments in 2012. He was ordered to pay $3.2m for damages.

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