UNESCO chief Irina Bokova called on the International Criminal Court today to look into the destruction of priceless artefacts by jihadists in Iraq that has caused outrage globally.
A video released yesterday of Islamic State militants smashing ancient statues to pieces with sledgehammers in the main museum and an archeological site in Mosul drew shocked condemnation and sparked fears that more of the world's oldest heritage would be destroyed.
"We are expecting some reaction from the International Criminal Court, it's very important because it will mobilise a big part of the international community," Bokova told reporters in Paris, where the UN cultural body is headquartered.
Bokova, who said she had sent a letter to the ICC's prosecutor and has also demanded an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, slammed the destruction as "cultural cleansing."
It's "the deliberate destruction of heritage that targets the identities of different communities living in Iraq."
The Islamic State group has controlled Iraq's second city of Mosul since June last year and has destroyed several historical and cultural sites across the country, including Muslim shrines.
In the jihadists' extreme interpretation of Islam, statues, idols and shrines are a corruption of pure, early Muslim faith and amount to recognising other objects of worship than God.
Their views are marginal however and most clerics, even those who promote orthodox Islam, argue that what were idols in the days of the Prophet Mohammed are now simply part of cultural heritage.
"This tragedy is far from only being a cultural issue. It's a major security issue," Bokova said, adding it was "terror strategy to destabilise and manipulate the population and ensure the domination of the Islamic State group.