ICC unseals arrest warrant for Mali suspect accused of crimes in 2012


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The International Criminal Court unsealed an arrest warrant Friday for a Malian accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the desert city of Timbuktu in 2012-13, where he is suspected of leading an al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremist group.

The warrant for Iyad Ag Ghaly, also known as Abou Fadl, was originally issued under seal in 2017. It charges him with crimes including murder, rape, sexual slavery and persecution of women and girls on gender grounds.

It covers crimes in Timbuktu and an attack on a military base during which more than 40 Malian soldiers who were not taking part in hostilities were executed, including some who had surrendered and others who were in the base’s hospital, according to the French-language warrant.

The court said in a statement that there are “reasonable grounds to believe that he would be the undisputed leader” of Ansar Dine, the extremist group which held power in northern Mali at the time.

It was not immediately clear why prosecutors asked for the warrant to be unsealed now.

In a written statement, the court’s prosecution office welcomed the unsealing and said the warrant for Ghaly “reflects the continued efforts of the Office to deliver justice for those in Mali who fell victim to crimes that were committed since 2012,” when Malian authorities asked the court to intervene.

“Today represents a further step forward in demonstrating that under international humanitarian law and the Rome Statute, the lives of all individuals have equal value and are deserving of equal protection,” the prosecution office added. The Rome Statute is the court’s founding treaty.

The prosecution office declined to comment on Ghaly’s whereabouts.

The announcement came days before the court is scheduled to deliver its verdict in the trial of an alleged Islamic extremist who was tried on charges that he policed a brutal Islamic regime in Timbuktu after al-Qaida-linked rebels overran the historic Malian desert city in 2012.

Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud is accused of being a key member of Ansar Dine, an Islamic extremist group linked to al-Qaida that held p ower in northern Mali at the time. The judgment in his trial is scheduled for June 26.

A member of Ansar Dine, Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, was convicted by the court in 2016 and sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment for attacking nine mausoleums and a mosque door in Timbuktu in 2012.

Mali, along with its neighbors Burkina Faso and Niger, has for over a decade battled an insurgency fought by armed groups, including some allied with al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. Following military coups in all three nations in recent years, the ruling juntas have expelled French forces and turned to Russia’s mercenary units for security assistance instead.

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