International Criminal Court judges on Wednesday rejected an appeal by an alleged Islamic extremist from Mali who argued that the charges against him were not serious enough to merit standing trial at the global court.
The decision clears the way for the trial of Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud to start later this year for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Timbuktu, including torture, rape and persecution.
Prosecutors allege Al Hassan was responsible for the torture and mistreatment of the people in the ancient Sahara Desert city from April 2012 until January 2013 while it was occupied and ruled by Islamic extremists.
Al Hassan allegedly was a key member of Ansar Dine, an Islamic extremist group with links to al-Qaida that held power in northern Mali at the time. Prosecutors say Ansar Dine imposed a brutal regime on Timbuktu residents including public floggings, amputations and forced marriages.
At a hearing last year, the court's Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told judges Al Hassan was the de facto chief of the Islamic police and "played an essential and undeniable role in the system of persecution established by the armed groups throughout the period of occupation of Timbuktu."
His trial is scheduled to start July 14.
Set up in 2002, the ICC is a court of last resort established to prosecute grave crimes when local authorities cannot or will not take legal action.