From The Hague to Timbuktu: The Prosecutor v. Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi; A Consequential Case of Firsts for Cultural Heritage and for the International Criminal Court



This Note presents a wide-ranging legal, political, and strategic examination of the International Criminal Court and its successful landmark prosecution of Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi in late 2016. The unprecedented Al Mahdi case furthers the mission and power of the international community to protect cultural heritage, prevent crimes against humanity, and prevent war crimes, particularly cultural genocide. This war crime prosecution is especially significant within its contemporaneous context of turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa, where the global community has lost significant sites of cultural and human heritage at an alarming rate. Al Mahdi demonstrates the International Criminal Court‘s competence to prosecute this matter, incentivizes domestic prosecution, and strengthens relevant customary international law—despite the differing approaches of various international legal regimes. Al Mahdi thus opens doors (and dockets) to possible prosecution for the gravest violators which have seemed beyond the reach of the law, and in nations that are not party to the Rome Statute. This Note also argues that Al Mahdi marks a significant shift in prosecutorial strategy, illustrates the effectiveness and soft power of the Court‘s prosecutorial discretion, and is an important early step by the Court‘s new Chief Prosecutor to combat past and current criticism of the Court. Al Mahdi thus serves to combat impunity and strengthen the International Criminal Court as an institution in a time of jeopardy and controversy, a crucial task amidst contemporaneous challenges to the liberal international legal order. Within the confines of the Court and the Rome Statute, this Note also examines Al Mahdi for the valuable legal precedent that it generates, including the Court‘s first-ever admission of guilt.

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