Washington, DC - We welcome the announcement by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) that Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, an alleged member of the Islamic extremist group Ansar al-Dine (AAD), has been surrendered to the Court by Nigerien authorities. This is an important step toward holding accountable those responsible for serious crimes in Mali. The charges against Mr. Al Faqi are the first charges at the ICC relating to intentionally directing attacks against religious and historic buildings and monuments. They are also the first charges brought in the ICC’s ongoing investigation of the situation in Mali.

The United States strongly condemns the destruction of Muslim shrines and other religious and historic sites in Timbuktu by extremist militants, including AAD. We are outraged by the destruction of these World Heritage Sites. These are assaults not just on Mali and its people, but on the common cultural heritage of all humankind, and those responsible for these acts—and all those responsible for atrocity crimes—should face justice.

Historic and religious sites are directly linked to culture and heritage and should be protected. The destruction of irreplaceable relics of ancient life and society represents both an attempt to eradicate culture and an assault on the beliefs of those who hold these sites sacred.

As Secretary Kerry has said about the destruction of cultural heritage sites, “These acts of vandalism are a tragedy for all civilized people, and the civilized world must take a stand.”

We commend Mali’s commitment to ensuring accountability for serious crimes and its cooperation with the ICC in this matter.