IStGH: Al Mahdi case – accused makes an admission of guilt at trial opening

On 22 August 2016, the trial in the case “The Prosecutor v. Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi” opened before Trial Chamber VIII at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the Netherlands. Mr Al Mahdi admitted guilt as to the war crime consisting in the destruction of historical and religious monuments in Timbuktu (Mali), between around 30 June 2012 and 11 July 2012. This is the first international trial focusing on the destruction of historical and religious monuments, and the first ICC case where the defendant made an admission of guilt.

The trial, the first concerning the situation in Mali before the ICC, started with the reading of an extract of the confirmed charge against the accused and the Presiding judge asked the accused to confirm that he understood the charge. The accused admitted guilt as to the charge. Accordingly, the judges questioned the accused in order to confirm that: (a) the accused understood the nature and consequences of the admission and (b) the admission was made voluntarily after sufficient consultation with his Defence counsel. After that, the Office of the Prosecutor started the presentation of its case which is expected to last for two to three days.

Once the Prosecution concludes its presentation, the Legal representative of the victims as well as the Defence will present their remarks. In addition, the judges have agreed that the Defence may request the introduction at a later stage of two Defence witnesses‘ statements in writing relating to the possible sentence. The judges will thereafter deliberate and in due course pronounce a decision on the guilt or innocence of the accused and the possible sentence.

Background: On 24 March 2016, ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I confirmed against Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi the war crime charge regarding the destruction of historical and religious monuments in Timbuktu (Mali), and committed Mr Al Mahdi to trial. On 1 March 2016, Mr Al Mahdi explicitly expressed before ICC Judges and in the presence of his lawyers, his wish to make an admission of guilt. The warrant of arrest against him was issued by ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I on 18 September 2015 and he was surrendered to the ICC on 26 September 2015. Mr Al Mahdi is in ICC custody. The trial is held before Trial Chamber VIII, composed of Judge Raul C. Pangalangan, Presiding Judge, Judge Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua, and Judge Bertram Schmitt.

Press Release ICC, 22 August 2016

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