By Niklas Jakobsson
It’s a story that has captured the thoughts and imaginations of the international justice community. Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi has been the talk of The Hague for the last week, ever since he was transferred to the custody of the International Criminal Court on 26 September.
Last week saw him appearing before the Court for the first time, and his presence ignited yet another flurry of speculation. Al Mahdi – as he’s asked to be referred to by the Court – is accused of participating in the destruction of cultural sites during the violence in Timbuktu, Mali, in 2012.
The Court initially provided a limited amount of information, but the alleged affiliations of Al Mahdi leads us to believe that the Court will deal with its first ‘terrorist’.
But one man’s terrorist is another man’s teacher. In his initial appearance, Al Mahdi made no statements in relation to the crimes he’s accused of. Instead, he was more inclined to speak about his work as a teacher. However, there are people, and groups, expressing strong doubts about his teaching credentials.
During the initial appearance, judge Cuno Tarfusser repeatedly highlighted his will and intent for the proceedings to be swift. His lighthearted approach to the session was a welcome break from otherwise stiff and tense days in court.
The Court has been very quiet on how, and for what reasons, they brought Al Mahdi to The Hague in a surprisingly quick manner. This has created a lot of speculation about the intentions of the Office of the Prosecutor for seemingly expediting the transfer of Al Mahdi. If we’re to believe information from certain credible international justice commentators, the events could be taken from any bestselling Tom Clancy thriller.
With over a month of substantial developments at the ICC, we’re almost starting to expect the unexpected from Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s office. The arrest warrant and transfer of Al Mahdi is just another in a long line of curveballs thrown at those following the work of the Court.
The confirmation of charges hearing for Al Mahdi is set for the 18 January, 2016, and by the statements made by the OTP in court, it seems as though they’re ready and roaring to go. It even got to the point that the defence had to ask the OTP to postpone its start of disclosure of evidence.
So as we prepare to expect the unexpected, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Court falls back into a period of few developments as the winter rapidly approaches. But until then, let’s hope for more of the unexpected.
- What strikes you as most surprising in the Al Mahdi saga?
- Should the OTP expand the charges to involve more than cultural crimes?
- Do you believe that the Court will be able to stick to the expedited timeline?
Popa Matumula is a Tanzanian-based cartoonist who works for Cartoon Movement.
The Weekly Hubble features the most popular or controversial international justice story of the past week and reactions on social media to the news.