AfriForum of the opinion that International Criminal Court case serves as warning for SA government
26 August 2016
AfriForum has taken notice of the case against Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, also known as Abu Tourab, which was heard this week in the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands. Abu Tourab, as a member of military groups related to Al-Qaeda, gave the instruction that monuments in Timbuktu, Mali, be destroyed when these forces took control of the city in 2012. Considering that the destruction of historic religious buildings and monuments is a crime of war in terms of the Rome Statute, the court has the right to preside over his case. It is the first time that a person is tried by the International Criminal Court on charges of the violation of heritage resources.
According to Alana Bailey, Deputy CEO of AfriForum, this case is of great importance because the preservation of heritage in South Africa is also currently running the gauntlet.
Bailey is of the opinion that the argument of the Criminal Court’s Prosecutor, Ms Fatou Bensouda, offers a very stern warning to South Africans in general, but also in particular to authorities responsible for heritage preservation.
Ms Bensouda declared, inter alia: “Today's trial is indeed historic. And it is all the more historic in view of the destructive rage that marks our times, in which humanity's common heritage is subject to repeated and planned ravages by individuals and groups whose goal is to eradicate any representation of a world that differs from theirs by eliminating the physical manifestations that are at the heart of communities. The differences and values of these communities are thus simply denied and annihilated.”
She added that the attack on a community’s heritage is a direct attack against the identity, memory and, therefore, also the future of communities. It impoverishes and also damages the universal values that the international community is obliged to protect.
Ms Bensouda further warned that the destruction of cultural property of a community is often the precursor to the committing of more violent actions against such a community itself, and thus may not be tolerated. She described the attacks on the cultural heritage of a group as a weapon of war that is used to wipe out evidence of the existence of a group. In conclusion she stated that the protection of cultural heritage is an essential part of the post-conflict social reconstruction and reconciliation process.
Bailey emphasises that the last-mentioned statement is exactly the opposite of ideologists in South Africa’s argument that reconciliation is only possible if all signs of the previous order – whether it is monuments, statues, place or street names – be wiped out or disappear from the public eye. She adds that these cultural terrorists must heed the Prosecutor’s argument to prevent that they also one day come to stand as the accused in front of the world community, but indeed also before history itself.
Sentencing in the case will be delivered on 27 September 2016.
Issued by Alana Bailey, Deputy CEO, AfriForum, 26 August 2016