The trial of Malian with links to Al Qaeda, Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, is scheduled to open on Monday, August 22, at The Hague, Netherlands.
Al Mahdi is accused of the war crime consisting in the alleged destruction of historical and religious monuments in Timbuktu (Mali), between around 30 June 2012 and 11 July 2012. This is the first of its kind in the history of the court, which was established in 2002.
During the confirmation of charges in March this year, Al Mahdi had announced intentions to make an admission of guilt.
This will be the first case that an accused person facing trial at the ICC has made such an admission. Consequently, instead of months or even years of hearing the case, the trial is expected to last for about a week, after which the judges will deliberate and in due course pronounce a decision on the guilt or innocence of the accused and the possible sentence.
According to Dr Luke Moffett, a lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast, Ireland, to make a judgment on the admission of guilt the Trial Chamber will be governed by Article 65 of the Rome Statute to determine if it was made voluntary, al Mahdi understands the implications of such a trial and if further evidence needs to be presented.
Article 65 provides that if an accused admits guilt before the Trial Chamber, the Chamber may forego a full-blown trial and proceed with the case in an abbreviated fashion. The provision effectively allows for the development of a form of “plea bargaining,” or “negotiated justice,” whereby the accused agrees to admit guilt in exchange for more lenient treatment.
If the accused does not plead guilty at the opening of the trial, the hearings will be reported to another date.
“If an admission of guilt is indeed made as expected, the Chamber will conduct a short inquiry in order to determine whether: the accused understands the nature and consequences of the admission and the admission is voluntarily made after sufficient consultation with Defence counsel,” says the Office of the Prosecution.
Unlike in other cases where there several witnesses sometimes totaling to thousands, only two are expected in this trial.
“The judges have agreed that the Defence may request the introduction at a later stage of two Defence witnesses’ statements in writing relating to the possible sentence,” says the OP.
In March this year, the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I confirmed against Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi the war crime charge regarding the destruction of historical and religious monuments in Timbuktu (Mali), and committed him to trial.
The warrant of arrest against him was issued September 18, 2015 and he was surrendered to the ICC on September 26, 2015.
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