A German court jailed for life a former member of the ISIL (ISIS) group after he was convicted of committing genocide against Iraq’s minority Yazidi community.
The case involved the death of a five-year-old girl he bought as a slave and then chained up in the hot sun to die.
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The Frankfurt regional court sentenced Taha al-Jumailly, a 29-year-old Iraqi citizen, at a hearing on Tuesday and ordered him to pay the girl’s mother 50,000 euros ($57,000).
He was found guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity resulting in death, war crimes, aiding and abetting war crimes and bodily harm resulting in death after joining ISIL in 2013.
Al-Jumailly’s lawyers had denied the allegations made against their client, who was arrested in Greece and extradited to Germany two years ago.
In a separate trial, his wife, 30-year-old German national Jennifer Wenisch, was sentenced to 10 years in jail in October for “crimes against humanity in the form of enslavement”, and aiding and abetting the Yazidi girl’s killing by failing to offer help.
German news agency dpa quoted the presiding judge, Christoph Koller, as saying Tuesday’s conviction was the first for a person’s role in the systematic persecution of the Yazidi religious minority, a Kurdish-speaking group, carried out by ISIL.
The United Nations has called the group’s assault on the Yazidis’ ancestral homeland in northern Iraq in 2014 a genocide, saying the Yazidis’ 400,000-strong community “had all been displaced, captured or killed”.
Of the thousands captured by ISIL fighters, boys were forced to fight for the group, men were executed if they did not convert to Islam – and often executed in any case – and women and girls were sold into slavery.
Germany, home to a large Yazidi community, is one of the few countries to have taken legal action over such abuses using the legal principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows offences to be prosecuted even if they were committed in a foreign country.
“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 ISIL against the Yazidis, told the AFP news agency after the Frankfurt regional court’s verdict.
“Today is a historical day for humanity and the Yazidi genocide enters finally the history of international criminal law. We will make sure that more trials such as this take place,” she said.
Mother and daughter bought as slaves
According to German prosecutors, al-Jumailly bought a Yazidi woman and her five-year-old daughter as slaves at an ISIL base in Syria in 2015.
The two had been taken prisoner in northern Iraq at the beginning of August 2014 and were “sold and resold several times as slaves” by the group.
Al-Jumailly subsequently took the woman and her daughter to his household in the Iraqi city of Fallujah and forced them to “keep house and to live according to strict Islamic rules”, while giving them insufficient food and beating them regularly to punish them, according to the indictment levelled against him.
Prosecutors said towards the end of 2015, al-Jumailly chained the girl to the bars of a window in the open sun on a day where it reached 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) and she died. The punishment was allegedly carried out because the five-year-old had wet the bed.
The girl’s mother, who survived captivity, testified about the torment visited on her daughter during the trials of al-Jumailly and Wenisch.
Identified only by her first name Nora, 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 ISIL crimes against the Yazidis to be recognised as genocide, along with former Yazidi slave and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad.
Murad has called on the UN Security Council to refer cases involving crimes against the Yazidis to the International Criminal Court or to create a specific tribunal for genocide committed against the community.