The Misplaced Emphasis on the Intangible Dimension of Cultural Heritage in the Al Mahdi Case at the ICC
Inter Gentes - The McGill Journal of International Law & Legal Pluralism 1:2 (2017): pp. 45-58
14 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2017
Date Written: August 1, 2017
The proceedings against Al Mahdi constitute a landmark precedent in the prosecution of crimes against cultural heritage, inside and outside the International Criminal Court. This article examines the Prosecution’s overarching strategy at the confirmation of charges stage, where emphasis was placed on the consequences that the destruction of the shrines in Timbuktu had for the local population. It is suggested that this anthropocentric line of reasoning was historically inaccurate and strategically short-sighted. Using the example of the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, the article explains how, in the long run, this anthropocentric approach can restrict the capacity to prosecute crimes committed against cultural heritage per se, and undermine the conceptual foundation for the special protection given to cultural property.
Keywords: Al Mahdi, ICC, cultural heritage, human rights
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