“Consciousness: Past and Present” – The oppression of women, by artist Shqipe Kamberi

By Njomza Miftari

We sat down to speak to Artist Shqipe Kamberi in Pristina, Kosovo regarding her recent personal art exhibition titled “Consciousness: Past and Present” displayed at the National Museum of Kosovo. Shqipe began actively pursuing the arts upon graduating from the Academy of Arts at the University of Pristina in Kosovo in 1998. She showed dedication to her career through painting whilst also working as a TV set designer.

Her recent work is particularly interesting as we are in the midst of 16 days of Activism against Gender-based Violence, where violence is also pervasive in silent forms, in ways that are not as easily visible to the public eye. These particular pieces, as shown in the photographs above and below, are a classic example of silent violence which reflect the treatment of Albanian women, specifically brides, during the era of Kanuni (code of customary rules dating back to the 15th century or before, editor’s note). Kanuni is a set of written laws that were heavily practiced especially in rural areas of Albania and Kosovo.

Can you tell us what these pieces mean to you?
I have been inspired mostly from the Kanuni, which a number of articles refer to the rights of women, specifically during a marriage. The women displayed in my art pieces are brides, and through these brides, I have tried to express the situation of these women living in a patriarchal society, which for me represent someone who does not have an identity. I have referred a lot to the Kanuni as it specifically has articles which indicate that women have absolutely no rights. She has to obey to the family, serve them, and is not allowed to express her own opinion. In addition, she has no right to form any decisions, neither regarding her home or her children. This was sufficient enough for me to transfer it through art. This is why I have closed their eyes in different ways, to show that something is wrong with them as beings.


Article 33, Duties of Wife to Husband, Code of Leke Dukagjini:

The duties of the Wife are:

  1. a) To preserve the honor of her husband;
  2. b) To serve her husband in an unblemished manner;
  3. c) To submit to his domination;
  4. d) To fulfill her conjugal duties;
  5. e) To raise and nurture her children with honor;
  6. f) To keep clothes and shoes in good order
  7. g) Not to interfere in the betrothals of her sons and daughters.

 

Do you think such patriarchal practices are still present in Kosovo today?

Yes, but in different forms. Today women are more educated and more independent, however, there are still cases, especially in rural areas where men dominate in the family. Maybe not as severe as before but it is still evident. Also, I don’t think this only happens in Kosovo as patriarchal families and oppressed women still exist in all societies. In my artwork you can see that the face of the woman remains the same. What I have tried to portray is that this problem is evident throughout many cultures but I have tailored it with traditional Albanian clothes as I am living in that society. As an artist, we have an obligation to reflect these manifestations.

What message do you hope the public will gain from viewing these pieces?

My main objective is to touch the individuals that still maintain a patriarchal view in society, and for me, it is enough to raise awareness to those people.  

Do you think art has the power to bring social change?

Art has the power to cater information, and it can also bring change to those that are open minded, however through my artwork I doubt that I can change the opinion of men that are patriarchal. For example, just because he is patriarchal, he will oppose me and will not accept my idea. Nonetheless, art as information is a very powerful and an important tool. We are very aware that through art we intake information about different events in the world. For example, during the Rwandan genocide, I was completely uninformed, I only knew that there was a conflict going on. However, when I saw the movie “Hotel Rwanda” that is where I really understood what was going on. So, through an art project, we were given the opportunity to understand the story as it was, and that is more powerful than politics.

What message would you like to send to other women and girls?
To encourage young girls to become educated as much as possible and to have a purpose for their own lives. They need to be firmer about their ambitions and not wait for society to do it for them but learn to take their own lead. That is how society changes through education.

 

 

“As long as my ballets are danced I will live”: 25 years after death, production about ballet genius Rudolf Nureyev not allowed to go ahead at Bolshoi

By Nolwenn Guibert*

On 8 July 2017, the General Director of the Bolshoi Theater, Vladimir Urin, cancelled, three days before its scheduled premiere, the production of a much anticipated new ballet about the life of former Soviet Union’s renowned artist, Rudolf Nureyev. Urin stated that he had cancelled the scheduled performances because rehearsals showed the production was not ready. For him, “the ballet was not good”. With a renowned choreographer, composer, a cast full of the leading stars of Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet Company, one of the top ballet companies in the world, having worked on the project for months, this is hard to believe. A ballet staged for the Bolshoi and about to premiere is never simply “not good”. For people who attended the general rehearsal, the performance was ready to go ahead and was even in better shape than many other premieres.

In fact, soon after the news broke out, a Russian news agency, Tass, cited a source from the Ministry of Culture according to which the cancellation originated from pressure by Vladimir Medinsky, the Minister of Culture, because he was outraged by the ballet and feared it would be in contravention of the 2013 Russian law banning the promotion of homosexuality to minors (which would mean a hefty fine for the Bolshoi). The management of the Bolshoi Ballet and the Ministry of Culture have since denied that, although there had been a discussion between Urin and the Ministry, a government ban was not issued on the production.

As background, it is useful to recall that in 2013, Russia introduced a federal law which bans “the promoting of non-traditional sexual relationships among minors, expressed in the dissemination of information aimed at creating in minors a non-traditional sexual orientation, promoting the attractiveness of non-traditional sexual relationships, creating a distorted image of the social equivalence of traditional and non-traditional sexual relationships, or imposing information about non-traditional sexual relationships, arousing interest in such relationships, if these activities do not contain acts punishable under criminal law.” As a side note, just a few weeks ago, in a landmark six to one decision in the case of Bayev and Others v. Russia, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the law violated Articles 10 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (freedom of expression and prohibition of discrimination). The Court found that: “Above all, by adopting such laws the authorities reinforce stigma and prejudice and encourage homophobia, which is incompatible with the notions of equality, pluralism and tolerance inherent in a democratic society.”

Known by all even outside the ballet world, Rudolf Nureyev was openly gay and was one of the first Soviet dancers to defect from the USSR in 1961. He, and the great artists who followed like Natalia Makarova, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Alexander Godunov, to name a few, fled out of the Soviet Union in search of artistic freedom and to express their art free from censorship. At Le Bourget airport, near Paris, Nureyev delared: “I want to stay and be free”. Like all Soviet art, ballet in the Soviet Union was supposed to embody the principles of narodnost (nationality), ideinost (ideological content), and partiinost (party spirit), as explained in Christina Ezrahi’s book, Swans of the Kremlin: Ballet and Power in Soviet Russia

In Paris, London, and New York, Nureyev went on to have as much of a profilic and acclaimed artistic career as a dancer, choreographer, and artistic director as he led a much talked about and scandalous personal life. In that sense, a true artistic depiction of Nureyev’s life would necessarily include some representation of his relationships and as such may very well have fallen under the scope of the 2013 law.

The Bolshoi production director, and Director of the Gogol Center for the Arts, Kirill Serebrennikov, made this sole comment on the performance’s cancellation: “While authorities and rules change, art is permanent.” Without Serebrennikov’s “Nureyev”, and until the 2013 law is repealed or there is a shift in the treatment of gay rights and freedom of expression in Russia, we are in any event left with the master’s many masterpieces. Incidentally, as this post is being written, Serebrennikov has been arrested in relation to a large fraud case and faces a maximum penalty of 10 years. The art world has been quick to react to this arrest and offer their support to Serebrennikov (see here and here), a man known for his talent and as an advocate of gay rights and a Putin opponent.

 

* The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

The importance of volunteering

At Creating Rights, we want to take the opportunity of having participated to two great volunteering events lately to express how nice it feels to be part of the big non-profit community. And to meet and potentially collaborate with individuals driven by the will to give a bit – or a lot – of their free time and get some experience while volunteering for non-profit organizations.

The first event on 14 June was organized by Volunteer The Hague, a fantastic volunteer organization that builds a bridge between non-Dutch speaking individuals in The Hague who want to get volunteer experience and non-profit organizations who need this kind of people to reach their goals. The Volunteer The Hague Mix and Match Networking Event saw 12 non-profit organizations meet over 150 people. This event is organized several times a year, see here and here for more information.

Volunteer The Hague also intervenes in events when needed, to give presentations on what it means to volunteer and how it can help regarding career evolution. They did so at the second event Creating Rights participated in, on 30 June at the Institute for Social Studies in The Hague, organized by The Umbrella of Hope Uganda. There we met with African students completing their Master program in development studies. It was a great opportunity for us to meet with motivated young and brilliant individuals who already work on human rights, transitional justice, gender, and conflict issues.

Creating Rights, like numerous organizations, is made of a team of volunteers who share an interest in the interdisciplinary field of art and human rights, or want to help a new organization to grow. If you feel you could benefit from a volunteering experience with us, and want to help us achieve our vision and mission, please visit our Get Involved page, regularly updated with volunteer profiles, or contact us!

“Ararat” by Atom Egoyan, or the current influence of the Armenian Genocide

By Nolwenn Guibert*

On 8 June, Humanity House and the Abovian Cultural Association with their representative, Mr Mato Hakhverdian, in attendance, co-organized in The Hague an evening event which looked into the current influence of the Armenian Genocide. The evening started with opening remarks from the Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to the Netherlands, H.E. Dziunik Aghajanian, and Mr. Alexis Demirdjian, an international criminal lawyer and recently the editor and co-author of an inter-disciplinary book entitled “The Armenian Genocide Legacy”. Her Excellency Aghajanian remarked that war trauma and wounds cannot be healed if victims do not face the truth. Such was the underlying theme of the evening.

The screening of Atom Egoyan’s 2002 “Ararat” followed. A movie within a movie, the Canadian-French film focuses on family and film crew members all directly or indirectly working in Toronto on a film depicting the 1915 events. The film explores the lasting human impact of the 1915 Armenian Genocide a century later and examines the representation of the truth through art.

The movie is a complex weaving of various stories, relationships, and characters all linked together by their own representation of what they allow themselves to consider as being the truth. The quest for remembrance is at the heart of the movie when the mother of Armenian painter Arshile Gorky, then a boy, tells him: “If you survive, it will be to tell this story”. Yet, when the young protagonist Raffi travel to Turkey to shoot footage so that he can construct his own memories of what he has heard happened to his ancestors, he comes back from that trip with the realisation that it is not just the land or the lives the Armenians lost but also any way to remember it with.

For me, one of the most powerful scenes of the film is when Gorky, then living in New York City in 1934, erases the hands of his mother from his famous painting based on the last photograph that was taken of him together with this his mother in 1912. Egoyan shoots Gorky as looking at his mother’s eyes in the painting while erasing her hands as if to finally say goodbye to her and let go of her motherly touch.

More paintings by Arshile Gorky can be viewed here.

The screening was followed by presentations from two scholars, Marie-Aude Baronian, Associate Professor in Film and Visual Culture at the University of Amsterdam, and Aysenur Korkmaz, PhD Researcher at the University of Amsterdam in Regional, Transnational, and European Studies.

As Baronian explained after the screening, Ararat is not a historical drama about the Armenian Genocide and has no documentary value. Rather, it explores transgenerational trauma and the impossibility of mourning. Ararat is not about the past –the past is dealt with by the “movie within the movie” which gives an historical insight, albeit distorted, into the 1915 events; but rather about the present. As such, it is replete with mnemonic anchors tying the past to the present, such as Armenian emblems, photographs, Gorky’s paintings, and appearances by the emblematic Armenian French entertainer Charles Aznavour.

Baronian explained that there are subtle traces of the Armenian Genocide in all of Egoyan’s work. I left the evening with a strong desire to review Egoyan’s other films through that lens.

* Nolwenn Guibert is an international criminal lawyer working in The Hague who has a keen interest in matters relating to the Armenian Genocide.

CAMERA JUSTITIA: Law and Justice at the Movies that Matter Festival – The Hague

by Sofia Stolk (coordinator Camera Justitia program)

Cyberwar, illegal adoption, the death penalty, solitary confinement, child soldiers, resistance, war crimes, and a final verdict. In this wide variety of topics, one important common theme stands out: a call for justice. From March 24 until April 1, the Movies that Matter Festival once again takes over The Hague. For 9 days, the ‘International City of Peace and Justice’ will host a plethora of films, debates and exhibitions about human rights and social justice.

Film opens eyes. That is what Movies that Matter believes in. That is why we show films, and talk about them. Let’s meet, is the slogan of this year’s festival. That is exactly one of the biggest contributions a festival like Movies that Matter has to offer: to create a space to encounter ‘the other’. A space where artists can meet politicians, where filmmakers can meet lawyers, where activists can meet academics, where students can meet judges. The Camera Justitia programme specifically focuses on the worldwide fight for justice. Four documentaries, four fiction films, and over thirty experts and filmmakers show and discuss judicial dilemmas and the challenges of (international) legal systems. Camera Justitia reveals the bright and but also the darker sides of law, justice and human rights; it sheds light on the tensions, and asks uncomfortable questions. Because securing human rights is not easy, because law is not straightforward, and because justice can mean different things to different people.

The four Camera Justitia documentaries question the capacity of the law to effectively and humanely deal with personal traumas as well as global threats. They dig where one is not allowed to dig, they ask the painful questions, they show how big dilemmas and societal changes are more than grand theories or political slogans, but affect the lives of actual people.

Can you secure your identity through a trial? Algo Mio – Argentia’s Stolen Children shows two different perspectives on the legal and psychological dimensions of illegal adoption. Can you hold prisoners in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, indefinitely? Solitary offers a disturbing look inside a US maximum security prison. Do we really know what threatens us? Zero Days unravels the highly secretive and intrusive cyber operations that increasingly dominate the world’s international relations. What does ‘civilian life’ mean when you spent 16 years fighting in the bush? No Place for a Rebel follows the struggles of former child soldier Opono Opondo.

Like documentary, fiction is a very powerful tool to get us to think about the world, to explore the grey zones, the struggles and the other perspective. Because fiction can sometimes be more real than reality itself. The four Camera Justitia fiction films incisively uncover the impact of law and legal systems on the daily lives of individuals all over the world.

In The Verdict, the audience decides on the fate of an air force pilot who saved but also ended many lives by shooting down a hijacked passenger aircraft that was heading towards a packed stadium. Are his action morally justifiable? And legally? After the film, we ask the audience to vote: guilty or not guilty? That yesterday’s decisions affect today’s struggles is also experienced by prison guard Aiman who becomes the Apprentice of a death penalty executioner. In A Good Wife, Serbian housewife Milena is haunted by the ghosts of the past too, when she discovers a dark secret that disrupts here peaceful family life. Finally, the brave defense of Nelson Mandela in the historical drama Bram Fischer provides food for thought about resistance, sacrifice and just, but also unjust law.

Nine days, over seventy films, six talk shows, Masterclasses by Judge Julia Sebutinde (International Court of Justice) and Anna Neistat (Amnesty International), numerous Q&As with directors, experts, lawyers and other international guests… LET’S MEET at the Movies that Matter festival 2017.

From a System To A Culture of International Justice : Addressing Its Challenges Through Art

by Fiana Gantheret

International Justice faces challenges that need to be addressed

On 21st November 2016, the WAYAMO Foundation organized a panel discussion to celebrate the one-year anniversary of its Africa Group for Justice and Accountability (AGJA) : Through the Looking Glass – Imagining the Future of International Justice. This discussion, organized as a side-event to the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute (ASP), sought to explore the future of global accountability in the light of the recent declaration of withdrawals of South Africa, Burundi and Gambia from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. More particularly, and through a preview of Weights and Measures : Portraits of Justice, by American artist Bradley McCallum, it explored the question of opening a dialogue on the challenges faced by international criminal justice.

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Members of the AGJA participating to the panel were Dapo Akande (Nigeria), Richard Goldstone (South Africa), Hassan Jallow (The Gambia), Athaliah Molokomme (Botswana) and Fatiha Serour (Algeria). The discussion was moderated by WAYAMO’s Research Director Mark Kersten. These prominent members tackled in a compelling way the difficult question of how a global system of international justice, while contemplating its achievements, will face and discuss challenges and, if necessary, renew itself.

Following introductory remarks by Bettina Ambach, Director of the WAYAMO Foundation, the President of the ICC Silvia Fernandez de Gurmendi reaffirmed that addressing the current difficulties faced by the ICC must be taken seriously and done in an appropriate manner. She put international criminal justice in an historical perspective, recalling that it was a long-term project, requiring efforts to preserve accomplishments and to move forward. Professor Dapo Akande also interestingly placed the discussion on a historical level, emphasising on the fact that this particular moment in time – seeing countries leaving the global justice system they helped to build, as recalled by Richard Goldstone – is part of a process going in the « right direction ». As stated by Hassan Jallow, this process encompasses various elements, such as international tribunals, domestic jurisdictions, and regional mechanisms, each possessing their advantages and disadvantages. President de Gurmendy had also recalled that the role of the Rome Statute goes beyond the reach of the ICC, referring to the definition of crimes in national bodies of law. In that sense, a global justice system is designed to encompass not only international institutions, but also regional and domestic jurisdictions : a « mutually reinforcing global justice system ».

Fatiha Serour emphasized on necessary elements that must be present when setting up a dialogue : respect, trust, and mutual understanding. With these ensured, addressing concerns and working towards identifying common core values can take place. The common core principle, or goal, is stated in Security Council Resolutions 827 and 955, founding the ICTY and the ICTR, as well as in the Preamble to the Rome Statute: to deter the recurrence of international crimes, and to hold the persons responsible for these crimes as accountable. Allowing for a dialogue on the difficulties faced by a global system is necessary to ensure that the international criminal justice process fulfills this goal, also referred to as the « fight against impunity ».

This aim is not as such questioned by the actors of international justice. Indeed, South Africa, in its letter of withdrawal, reiterated its commitment to justice and accountability. Similarly, even though the reasons of Burundi and Gambia for wanting to leave the ICC differed from those put forward by South Africa – they both referred to a policy of the ICC they deemed « racist », the two countries still did not imply that impunity should prevail over accountability for international crimes.

The challenges to be discussed pertain rather to the way the goal is achieved, i.e., for example, the application of the law on immunities, enhancing capacity building for national jurisdictions, reflecting on the role of the Security Council in the referral process to the ICC, or reinforcing complementarity. It is suggested here that similarly, issues pertaining to principles such as the presumption of innocence (from which fair trial rights and more generally the rights of the Defence ensue from) must be part of the dialogue. Indeed, the fight against impunity cannot be achieved if all parties involved do not seriously think that the court is able to fulfill both its repressive and protective functions.

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President de Gurmendy and panel

From a system to a culture of international justice

The way to construct this dialogue is manifold. The panel discussion organized by the WAYAMO Foundation added a significant stone to the edifice, as have different working groups and conferences that took place since South Africa’s announcement in October 2016. Not to mention the ASP taking place every year, where many decisions concerning the functioning and the policies of the ICC are made. In this respect, the will of the WAYAMO Foundation to collaborate with artist Bradley McCallum in presenting his project Weights and Measures : Portraits of Justice, is telling of the existing interest towards the different and unconventional ways to build a dialogue around the challenges faced by international justice. Beyond the culture of justice that is promoted by institutions such as the WAYAMO Foundation, is it possible to build a culture of dialogue about international justice, inclusive of all viewpoints and able to tackle difficulties and challenges ?

Weights and Measures : Portraits of Justice is a global art project by artist Bradley McCallum, dedicated to connecting people from different communities, through the universal language of portraiture. After four years of research, including a one-year residency with the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, the project evolved to encompass painted portraits of individuals standing trial for international crimes, photographic portraits of justice practitioners, and audio portraits of witnesses and survivors, thus giving a panoramic angle to the discussion as well as a physical space for it. The audio testimonial portraits, when paired with the photographs of the Justice Practitioners, will speak back to the persons in the paintings and suspend the viewer within the space of the dialogue. All the different stakeholders will therefore come together to discuss the challenges and achievements of international criminal justice.

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Artist Bradley McCallum addressing the audience

The exhibition will tour in different countries. It will launch in March 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa, and then travel to Kampala (Uganda), Nairobi (Kenya), and Goma (Democratic Republic of the Congo). It will reach its final destination, The Hague (The Netherlands), in October-November 2017. The presence of the exhibition in these locations will be marked by special dialogues on themes such as abuse of power, accountability, presumption of innocence, peace, and justice. In this way, Bradley McCallum seeks to create an atmosphere of intimacy and empathy and draw the participation of civic-based organizations and a broad general public. The goal of this dialogue is to allow the framework of how we understand the efforts towards accountability to be more global by including non-legal audiences, but also by creating a dialogue between the different parties to the system of international justice.

Creating Rights supports this project as it does not shy away from the difficult questions linking the practitioners of international justice together, as well as with the affected populations and the broader public: is a dialogue possible, and what do the forms it takes say about the culture of international justice being promoted ?

Bradley McCallum’s diptychs of individuals standing trial for international crimes, and audience

Credits to: Kris Kotarski/Wayamo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Save the date: dialogue on the future of international justice with artist Bradley McCallum

You are invited to join in the Assembly State Parties side-event organized by the WAYAMO Foundation to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the creation of the Africa Group for Justice and Accountability (AGJA). The event will take place on Monday 21 November 2016 from 6 to 7.30 pm (followed by a reception) at the Marriott Hotel in The Hague, The Netherlands.
On this occasion, a panel discussion on the future of international justice and its challenges will gather members of the AGJA, as well as artist Bradley McCallum who will introduce his project entitled Weights and Measures: portraits of justice.
Organized by Conjunction Arts, Weights and Measures is an international exhibition with the aim to start a discussion on the underlying issues of international justice, through portraiture. The exhibition will take place internationally from February to November 2017 in South Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Kenya, and the Netherlands. It comprises large-scale oil paintings of defendants, photographs of justice practitioners and audio installations of witnesses and victims. A preview of the exhibition will be visible during this side-event.
Through this collaborative event, we are hoping to not only discuss the existence of a system of international justice and its challenges, but whether a culture of international justice exists today, and how it can contribute to the debate.
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Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi pleads guilty – Trial is held this week

by Fiana Gantheret

As mentioned here on Creating Rights, on 1st March 2016, the Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court held the confirmation of charges hearing in the case The Prosecutor v. Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi. On 24 March 2016, it issued its Decision on the confirmation of charges against Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, in which it confirmed the war crime charge regarding the destruction of historical and religious monuments in Timbuktu (Mali). The Pre-Trial Chamber found that the evidence presented by the Prosecutor is sufficient to establish substantial grounds to believe that Mr Al Mahdi is criminally responsible, pursuant to article 25(3)(a) (perpetration and co-perpetration); article 25(3)(b) (soliciting, inducing); article 25(3) (c) (aiding, abetting or otherwise assisting) or article 25(3) (d) (contributing in any other way) of the Rome Statute, for the commission of a war crime regarding intentionally directing attacks against the following buildings:

1) the mausoleum Sidi Mahamoud Ben Omar Mohamed Aquit, 2) the mausoleum Sheikh Mohamed Mahmoud Al Arawani, 3) the mausoleum Sheikh Sidi Mokhtar Ben Sidi Muhammad Ben Sheikh Alkabir, 4) the mausoleum Alpha Moya, 5) the mausoleum Sheikh Sidi Ahmed Ben Amar Arragadi, 6) the mausoleum Sheikh Muhammad El Mikki, 7) the mausoleum Sheikh Abdoul Kassim Attouaty, 8) the mausoleum Ahmed Fulane, 9) the mausoleum Bahaber Babadié, and 10) Sidi Yahia mosque (the door).*

The confirmed charge concerns a crime allegedly committed in Timbuktu between around 30 June 2012 and around 11 July 2012. From January 2012, a non-international armed conflict broke out in the territory of Mali, and led to different armed groups taking control of the north of the country. It is alleged that Mr Al Mahdi, born in Agoune, 100 kilometres west of Timbuktu, Mali, was an active personality in the context of the occupation of Timbuktu. He allegedly was a member of Ansar Eddine, a mainly Tuareg movement associated with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (“AQIM”), working closely with the leaders of the two armed groups that took control of Timbuktu, Ansar Dine and AQIM. During the ten months occupation period, the two groups imposed their will in Timbuktu through a local government, which included an Islamic tribunal, a morality brigade (Hisbah), and an Islamic police force. It is alleged that, until September 2012, he was the head of the Hisbah. In addition to his role as head of the Hisbah, It is alleged that Al Mahdi was very active in other structures such as the Islamic Tribunal, and oversaw the execution of its decisions. It is alleged that he was involved in the destruction of the buildings mentioned in the charge, as it was decided by the leaders of Ansar Dine and AQIM.

The Chamber also indicated that these buildings were cherished by the community, were used for religious practices, constituted an important part of the historical heritage of Timbuktu, and embodied the identity of the city, known as the “Pearl of the Desert” and the “City of 333 Saints”. As such, they did not constitute military objectives. They were specifically identified, chosen and targeted precisely in light and because of their religious and historical character. As a consequence of the attack, they were either completely destroyed or severely damaged.

Al Mahdi pleaded guilty this morning, as announced at the confirmation of charges hearing of 1 March 2016.The Trial will be held before Trial Chamber VIII, composed of Judge Raul C. Pangalangan (Presiding Judge), Judge Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua, and Judge Bertram Schmitt. The international Judges put questions to the accused, as foreseen in the Rome Statute, concerning the voluntary aspect of his admission of guilt, his awareness of the charges brought against him and of the possible sentence that might be decided.

Al Mahdi then made a short statement, in which he apologized to the ancestors that built the monuments and promised the people of Timbuktu that he will never engage in such acts ever again. He reminded them to he was a son of Mali that had lost his way and that he was part of the “social fabrique” of Timbuktu in that he also contributed to the life of the country. He stated that he had been influenced by groups, and warned the Muslims of the world that they should stay away from such acts from which no good can come for humanity.

As explained on the ICC website, the Office of the Prosecutor will have three hours to present its case and a maximum of nine hours for the examination of its three witnesses who are staff members or experts. The Legal Representative of victims will then have one hour to present their views and concerns, and the Defence will have a one hour and a half to present submissions.

This morning, the Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda addressed the attack on the identity of the people of Mali that was carried out through the destruction of the buildings. She defined these mausoleums as physical embodiment of Mali’s historical development. She also insisted on the significance of these attacks for the entire humankind, and the necessity of fighting against the revisionist goal of these attacks. The restructuration of the cultural heritage and the recognition of the crime of their destruction will help the reconciliation process taking place in the post-conflict phase. Finally, she emphasized that historical, religious and cultural heritage is no luxury and is necessary to the development of humanity.

You can follow the proceedings here.

* With regard the names of the religious and cultural sites, I will be grateful if anyone has information regarding the accuracy of their spelling. 

 

On 1st March, the destruction of cultural heritage as a war crime: the case of Al Faqi at the ICC

by Fiana Gantheret

On 1st March 2016 at 9.30 a.m. (The Hague time), the International Criminal Court (ICC) will hold the confirmation of charges hearing in the case The Prosecutor v. Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi. If Pre-Trial Chamber I confirms the charges against Mr Al Faqi, a trial chamber of the ICC will then conduct the trial, in accordance with Article 61(7)(a) of the Rome Statute.

This former jihadi leader is accused of war crimes allegedly committed in Timbuktu, Mali, between about 30 June 2012 and 10 July 2012, through intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion and/or historical monuments, including nine mausoleums and a mosque. These buildings were under the protection of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), some of them being World Heritage Sites, namely they were placed on World Heritage list by a special UNESCO committee. It is alleged that as a result of these attacks, the buildings were severely damaged, destroyed in certain cases.

Another case at the ICC involves allegations under Article8(2)(e)(iv) of the Rome Statute, namely intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are collected, provided they are not military objectives. Attacks that constitute serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in armed conflicts not of an international character other than grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949. Indeed, in the case The Prosecutor v. Bosco Ntaganda, the former alleged Deputy Chief of the Staff and commander of operations of the Forces Patriotiques pour la Libération du Congo is accused of having destroyed a church and a hospital.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the case The Prosecutor v. Prlic et al also brought attention to the question of cultural sites in times of war, with the destruction of the Stari Most of the city of Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the war between Bosnia and Croatia.

The fate of our cultural heritage is tied to the will of those who want to destroy it in order to assert power in times of war and conflict. It is said that to destroy a monument is like committing a parricide. According to the charges, these monuments were destroyed for the specific reason that they constituted religious and historical monuments, and did not constitute military objectives. 

 

Impunity through the eyes of Bradley McCallum at the Robert Blumenthal gallery in New York

by Fiana Gantheret

The work of Brooklyn based artist Bradley McCallum is in David Ebony’s Top Ten New York Gallery Shows this Winter. More specifically, his series of painted portraits, part of the Weights and Measures project, is. More specifically, international justice is.

Until March 5th, the Robert Blumenthal Gallery shows – together with six paintings of the Protest series – Bradley McCallum’s collection of oil paintings based on photographs of defendants being tried before various international criminal tribunals. This series aims at exploring the well-known public images of individuals such as Radovan Karadzic and Charles Taylor sitting before their judges as well as their reversed versions like negative film of photographs. In so doing, Bradley McCallum delves into less explored aspects of the fight against impunity such as the loss of a man’s freedom or the humane dimensions of trying mass criminals…

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Triptych and ‘reversal’ triptych of Slobodan Milošević, Thomas Lubanga, and Charles Taylor. Photographs of the painted portraits can be seen here.

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Bradley McCallum’s endeavor to help create a dialogue and raise awareness on international justice has already been described here on Creating Rights in the context of his one year residency with the Coalition for the International Criminal Court started in 2014.

Weights and Measures will concern other series of portraiture, namely photographs and audio recording that explore issues of international justice and accountability by poetically reflecting its various actors. Weights and Measures will begin an international tour in April, 2016 and will include exhibitions in The Hague, Netherlands, Limerick, Ireland, communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda, Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa, and Beijing, China before returning to the United States.

As explained on our Projects page, Creating Rights is actively supporting Bradley McCallum’s Weights and Measures project by being a partner in the Hague, the city of international justice.