Mali civil society lauds war crimes conviction of Islamist police chief

Fighters from Islamist group Ansar Dine stand guard in Timbuktu, Mali, Aug. 31, 2012, as they prepare to publicly lash a member of the Islamic Police found guilty of adultery

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Civil society associations and leaders of Malian society, in Bamako, followed the trial of Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz live from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague on Wednesday.

After an hour’s reading of the verdict by the judge, Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz, the former commissioner of the Islamic police during the occupation of Timbuktu by armed jihadist groups linked to Al Qaeda, was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The decision came as a real relief for women’s organisations, even if no sentence has yet been pronounced against him, pending the reaction of his lawyers.

Haidara Djeneba, a leader of a women’s organisation in Mali, remains vigilant.

“At least we can see that there is a trial. There is someone present who was guilty. I insist (that there is) no impunity. We must punish, because everything that has been done (by the accused) is inhumane”, she said.

In 2012, during the occupation of the city of Timbuktu in Mali by armed groups linked to Al Qaeda, Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz was in charge of the Islamic police, and under his orders, many people were subjected to torture, including the cutting off the hands of suspected thieves, rape, forced marriage and public flogging.

“The judges (of the ICC) are going to ask for input from legal representatives of victims, the prosecutor’s office and the defence and all parties, to determine the sentence”, said Margot Tedesco, ICC spokesperson.

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