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Press Release :

Al Hassan Case: ICC Appeals Chamber confirms the Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision on the admissibility and the sufficient gravity of the case

ICC-CPI-20200219-PR1515

Judge Luz del Carmen Ibáñez Carranza, of the Appeals Chamber, in Courtroom I of the International Criminal Court in The Hague (Netherlands) on 19 February 2020 © ICC-CPI
Judge Luz del Carmen Ibáñez Carranza, of the Appeals Chamber, in Courtroom I of the International Criminal Court in The Hague (Netherlands) on 19 February 2020 © ICC-CPI

Today, 19 February 2020, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (« ICC » or « Court ») delivered its judgment unanimously rejecting the appeal of Mr Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud and consequently confirming Pre-Trial Chamber I's decision of 27 September 2019, which had considered that the case against Mr Al Hassan is of sufficient gravity to justify further action by the Court. Judge Luz del Carmen Ibáñez Carranza, presiding in this appeal, read a summary of the judgment in open court.

Under article 17(1)(d) of the ICC Rome statute, the Court shall determine that a case is inadmissible where […] the case is not of sufficient gravity to justify further action by the Court. The Appeals Chamber stressed that the gravity requirement aims at excluding those rather unusual cases where the specific facts of a given case technically qualify as crimes under the jurisdiction of the Court, but are nonetheless not of sufficient gravity to justify further action. It considered that the Al Hassan case was not one of those rather unusual cases. It thus found that the Pre-Trial Chamber was correct in finding that the case brought against Mr Al Hassan was of sufficient gravity within the meaning of article 17(1)(d) of the Statute.

In rejecting the Defence's grounds of appeal, the Appeals Chamber found that quantitative criteria alone, such as the number of victims, while relevant, are not determinative of the gravity of a given case. The Chamber indicated that the gravity assessment must be made on a case-by-case basis. It involves a holistic evaluation of all relevant quantitative and qualitative criteria, including, for instance, some of the factors relevant to the determination of the sentence of a convicted person. Relevant criteria may include the nature and scale of the charged crimes, the manner of commission of the alleged crimes, including the human rights violated as a result, their impact on victims, the role and degree of participation of the accused, and whether the acts were committed on the basis of discriminatory motives.

The Appeals Chamber recalled that the Pre-Trial Chamber considered the nature and extent of the charged crimes; the repercussions of the alleged crimes on the direct victims and on the population of Timbuktu as a whole, in particular the victims of rape, sexual slavery and other inhumane acts in the form of forced marriages; the discriminatory motive of the crimes allegedly committed against the population of Timbuktu on religious and/or gender-based grounds; the vulnerability of certain victims; the allegation that the crimes at bar were committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population; the significant role that the Prosecutor attributes to Mr Al Hassan in the execution of said crimes through his contribution to the Islamic Police; and Mr Al Hassan's degree of intent and degree of participation in these crimes. The alleged crimes resulted in the violation of several fundamental human rights, including the physical and mental integrity of the victims and their human dignity, the right to a fair trial, the right to liberty and security of person, the human right of all persons deprived of their liberty to be treated with humanity and with respect for their inherent dignity, the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and the prohibition on discriminating on the grounds of religion or belief.

Mr Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud in Courtroom I of the International Criminal Court in The Hague (Netherlands) on 19 February 2020 © ICC-CPI
Mr Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud in Courtroom I of the International Criminal Court in The Hague (Netherlands) on 19 February 2020 © ICC-CPI

Background: Mr Al Hassan was transferred to the ICC on 31 March 2018 following a warrant of arrest issued by the Chamber on 27 March 2018 for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The confirmation of charges hearing took place from 8 to 17 July 2019. Pre-Trial Chamber found substantial reasons to believe that Mr Al Hassan is responsible for:

  • Crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Timbuktu, Mali, in the context of a widespread and systematic attack by armed groups Ansar Eddine / Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb against the civilian population of Timbuktu and its region, between 1 April 2012 and 28 January 2013: Torture, persecution, rape, sexual slavery, and other inhumane acts, including, inter alia, forced marriages ; and

  • War crimes allegedly committed in Timbuktu, Mali, in the context of an armed conflict not of an international nature occurring in the same period between April 2012 and January 2013: Torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, passing of sentences without previous judgement pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all judicial guarantees which are generally recognized as indispensable, intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion and historic monuments, rape and sexual slavery.

The opening of the trial is scheduled for 14 July 2020.

For further information on the case, click here.

Judgment on the appeal of Mr Al Hassan against the decision of Pre-Trial Chamber I entitled 'Décision relative à l'exception d'irrecevabilité pour insuffisance de gravité de l'affaire soulevée par la défense'

Summary of the Judgment

Audiovisual materials:


For further information, please contact Fadi El Abdallah, Spokesperson and Head of the Public Affairs Unit, International Criminal Court, by telephone at: +31 (0)70 515-9152 or +31 (0)64 644-8938 or by email at: [email protected]

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