The Hague, Netherlands. On Friday morning the International Criminal Court proceeded with the trial of Nassim Iyad Ali. The first witness to provide evidence was Dr. Ross Gallaurt – an expert on the politics of Western Africa.
After discussing the rather technical question of jurisdiction yesterday, this morning the Court called upon the first witness. Dr. Gallaurt is a Senior Lecturer at King’s College London specialising in Western African politics. Additionally, he currently serves as an advisor to the United Nations Security Council and as the Secretary-General of the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Dr. Gallaurt published numerous books on Mali and spent a year in the country doing research.
The bench hoped that the expert could provide valuable information on the command structure of Ansar Dine. It is believed that Mr Ali has never been physically present when the crimes he is being charged with were committed. It is therefore of the utmost importance that the Office of the Prosecution gives proof to the fact that the accused gave orders to commit said crimes. Otherwise he cannot be held responsible. The Prosecutors claim Nassim Iyad Ali serves as the Chief-of-Staff of the Militia which would put him on a level right beneath the group’s leader Mr Ghaly. Ross Rallaurt explained that Ghaly is supported by a Council of Advisors whose opinion carries “a lot of weight”. Nevertheless, the expert had to admit that final decisions are made by Mr Ghaly alone. Much to the displeasure of Prosecutor Ceren Dimirci, Dr. Gallaurt stated it was “totally possible” that Ghaly goes against the advice of the Council. When asked by Ms Dimirci whether he could put a simple label on the Ansar Dine group the reply was that it was “typical extremists that want to establish Sharia law by force”.
The witness went on to tell about the observations he made while he was on a field trip in the Northern-Malian regions. Dr. Gallaurt reported that he encountered three mass graves. According to him many bodies were mutilated and a considerable number of the victims were obviously children. In addition to his own observations the witness had also conducted a lot of interviews with the local population who reported incidents of torture, gang rapes and honour killings.
Although the statements made by Dr. Ross Gallaurt so far support a lot of the accusations put forward by the OtP still has a long way to go when it comes to proving Mr Ali’s individual guilt. There is no doubt that horrendous crimes took place in Mali. Whether or not the accused is responsible for those atrocities, however, still remains to be seen.