Arusha, July 9, 2012 (FH) – Six Western African leaders have asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate war crimes in northern Mali.

0 min 59Approximate reading time

The Heads of State from Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Niger, Nigeria, Togo and Burkina Faso reportedly held a mini-Summit in Ouagadougou on Saturday to discuss, among others, the political crisis in Mali.

Over the past week, armed Islamist fighters have descended on cemeteries holding the remains of Timbuktu's Sufi saints, systematically destroying its six most famous tombs.

"They are asking the International Criminal Court to proceed with necessary investigations to identify those responsible for war crimes and to take the necessary action against them," Radio France International (RFI) reported on Sunday, quoting on a statement issued after the summit.

At the same meeting, the ECOWAS leads also called on Mali to request a UN-backed military intervention to try to win back the country's north, which has been overrun by Islamist and Tuareg rebels after the March 2012 military coup.

On July 5, 2012, the United Nations Security Council demanded the immediate and unconditional cessation of hostilities by the rebel groups and indicated its willingness to consider the deployment of a stabilization force in the troubled West African country.

Few days before when she was in Senegal, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda warned that the destruction of holy sites in the historic Malian city of Timbuktu was a war crime and her office had authority to fully investigate on the matter.

Mali ratified the ICC Treaty in August 2000. The ICC Prosecutor can open an inquiry once such request is approved by judges of the court.