A German court on Tuesday issued the first ruling worldwide to recognize crimes against the Yazidi community as genocide, in a verdict hailed by activists as a “historic” win for the minority.
The court in Frankfurt sentenced an Iraqi man to life in jail for genocide against the Yazidis, as well as crimes against humanity resulting in death, war crimes, aiding and abetting war crimes and bodily harm resulting in death.
Taha al-Jumailly, 29, who joined the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group in 2013, passed out in the courtroom after the verdict was read out.
Yazidi survivor and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad thanked Germany for the “historic” ruling, which she described as “a win for survivors of genocide, survivors of sexual violence, and the entire Yazidi community”.
The Yazidis, a Kurdish-speaking group hailing from northern Iraq, have for years been persecuted by ISIS militants who have killed hundreds of men, raped women and forcibly recruited children as fighters.
In May, UN special investigators reported that they had collected “clear and convincing evidence” of genocide by ISIS against the Yazidis.
“This is the outcome every single Yazidi and all genocide survivors were hoping to see,” Natia Navrouzov, a lawyer and member of the NGO Yazda, which gathers evidence of crimes committed by ISIS against the Yazidis, told AFP.
“We will make sure that more trials such as this take place,” she said.
Prosecutors say Jumailly and his now ex-wife, a German woman named Jennifer Wenisch, “purchased” a Yazidi woman and child as household “slaves” while living in then ISIS-occupied Mosul in 2015.
They later moved to Fallujah, where Jumailly is accused of chaining the five-year-old girl to a window outdoors in heat rising to 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) as a punishment for wetting her mattress, leading her to die of thirst.
In a separate trial, Wenisch, 30, was sentenced to 10 years in jail in October for “crimes against humanity in the form of enslavement” and aiding and abetting the girl’s killing by failing to offer help.
Identified only as Nora B., the child’s mother testified in both Munich and Frankfurt about the torment inflicted on her daughter.
She also described being raped multiple times by ISIS jihadists after they invaded her village in the Sinjar mountains in northwestern Iraq in August 2014.
Nora B., who is in witness protection, told AFP in a statement through one of her lawyers Natalie von Wistinghausen that she was “relieved” by the ruling.
“It’s in the crimes committed against her and her daughter that the ISIS ideology, including the aim of destroying the Yazidi’s religion and community, is manifested,” added the lawyer.
‘Replicate around the world’
The mother was represented by a team including London-based human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who has been at the forefront of a campaign for ISIS crimes against the Yazidis to be recognized as genocide, along with Murad.
“This is the moment Yazidis have been waiting for,” Clooney said in a statement. “There is no more denying it -– ISIS is guilty of genocide.”
Germany, home to a large Yazidi community, is one of the few countries to have taken legal action over such abuses.
German courts have already handed down five convictions against women for crimes against humanity related to the Yazidis committed in territories held by ISIS.
Prosecutors in Naumburg on Tuesday charged a German woman named as Leonora M. with aiding and abetting crimes against humanity after she and her ISIS husband enslaved a Yazidi woman in Syria in 2015.
Germany has charged several German and foreign nationals with war crimes and crimes against humanity carried out abroad, using the legal principle of universal jurisdiction which allows offences to be prosecuted even if they were committed in a foreign country.
“Germany is not only raising awareness about the need for justice but is acting on it,” said Murad. “Their use of universal jurisdiction in this case can and should be replicated by governments around the world.”