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ICC About to Start Trial Against Nassim Iyad Ali

The Hague, the Netherlands. On Wednesday the International Criminal Court will start the trial against Nassim Iyad Ali.

The accused allegedly is part of the radical Islamist Ansar Dine militia and indicted for such horrendous acts as murder, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture, intentionally directing attacks against protected objects, executions without previous judgement, pillaging and rape. All these acts constitute war crimes under the Rome Statute; the treaty governing the proceedings of the International Criminal Court.

If found guilty, Ali will face long-term imprisonment: even life imprisonment is not unlikely. Nassim Iyad Ali is the first person to be tried with relation to the situation in Mali. The situation in the civil war stricken north-western African state has been officially investigated since January 2013 when ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda decided that the allegations made inter alia by human rights organizations were well-founded. However, it was the Malian government that called for these investigations when Minister of Justice Malick Coulibaly made an official referral to the Office of the Prosecution already in July 2012.

The investigation focuses on crimes committed on the territory of Mali since January 2012. Mainly affected are the three northern provinces Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu that form the region called Azawad. Since the beginning of 2012 there have been campaigns to violently form a new independent state within this region’s borders. The most prominent rebel group supporting this cause is the National Movement for the Liberation of Azaward (MNLA) which is backed by numerous Islamist militias. Among these is Ansar Dine which the accused is considered to be a leading member of.

Following a coup d’état that ousted President Touré, the rebels seized the opportunity and started an offensive that would lead to them gaining control over the entire Azawad region. In the wake flow of this invasion, the Islamists imposed strict sharia law on the population and committed grave human rights violations. The conflict was pacified in early 2014 after the French army had heavily supported the Malian government troops.

Nassim Ali allegedly took part in committing war crimes or at least gave orders to so . The 44 year-old is of Tuareg decent and was an IT consultant before he joined the ranks of the MNLA and eventually Ansar Dine. He has gained a reputation for his strict interpretation of Islam and Sharia law. Ali is believed to have held high ranks within both the NMLA and Ansar Dine and function as a link between these groups.

A judgement is expected to be delivered on Sunday, March 8th.

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MartinSchäfer