'Luke Moffett, Senior Lecturer at the Queens’ University Belfast Human Rights’ Centre explained the historic significance of the ICC’s first reparations order for the war crime of destruction of cultural sites, but also raised the challenges that will come up in its implementation.
“The International Criminal Court's reparations decision today in the Al Mahdi case is a welcome addition to the Court's growing jurisprudence on reparations. Importantly the Court recognised the human aspect of destruction of cultural property on communities. International law is very silent on reparations for cultural property, instead focusing on protection, preservation and prosecution. The decision in the Al Mahdi case represents a starting point in recognising that when cultural property is destroyed we also need to engage with reparations to individuals and communities affected.
“The Court's decision today indicates it continuing move away from the Lubanga [reparations case] decision, by awarding individual compensation with collective measures. The Court is striving to strike the correct balance between responding to the harm victims' suffered, number of victims, limitations of the charges, and the indigence of the convicted person. This can be seen by the Chamber focusing compensation to those who suffered the most harm, such as guardians and direct descendants of the mausoleums, with collective reparations used to widen the benefits of reparations at the ICC to the affected community in Timbuktu,” Moffet continued. “This decision will be of use to other international bodies such as the ECCC in dealing with the destruction of cultural property of the Cham or any future mechanism addressing the Syrian conflict. In particular the decision emphasises that even where destroyed cultural property has been destroyed there still need to be measures to remedy the moral, psychological and economic harm caused to individuals and communities by the destruction of cultural property. Challenges remain for the Court and the Trust Fund in implementing reparations in this case, given ongoing security issues in Mali and Timbuktu as well as finding the funding, due to Mr Al Mahdi's indigence.”