Germany jails Iraqi jihadist for life for Yezidi genocide

The trial of Al-Jumailly "sends a clear message"
German courts have already convicted five women for crimes against humanity related to the Yezidis committed in territories held by IS. (Arne Dedert POOL/AFP/File)
German courts have already convicted five women for crimes against humanity related to the Yezidis committed in territories held by IS. (Arne Dedert POOL/AFP/File)

A Frankfurt court on Tuesday handed a life sentence to an Iraqi man who joined the Islamic State group for genocide against the Yezidi minority, in the first verdict worldwide to use the label.

Taha al-Jumailly, 29, 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 ISIS in 2013.

Proceedings were suspended as the defendant passed out in court when the verdict was read out.

The Yezidis, a Kurdish-speaking group hailing from northern Iraq, have for years been persecuted by IS 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 Yezidis.

"This is a historical moment for the Yezidi community," Natia Navrouzov, a lawyer and member of the NGO Yazda, which gathers evidence of crimes committed by ISIS against the Yezidis, told AFP ahead of the verdict.

"It is the first time in Yezidi history that a perpetrator stands in a court of law for genocide charges," she said.

Prosecutors say al-Jumailly and his now ex-wife, a German woman named Jennifer Wenisch, "purchased" a Yezidi woman and child as household "slaves" while living in then ISIS-occupied Mosul in 2015.

They later moved to Fallujah, where al-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 by her first name Nora, the child's mother testified in both Munich and Frankfurt about the torment visited on her child.

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.

'Clear message'

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 former Yezidi slave and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad.

Although Clooney did not travel to Munich or Frankfurt, she called Wenisch's conviction "a victory for everyone who believes in justice," adding that she hoped to see "a more concerted global effort to bring ISIS to justice."

Murad has called on the UN Security Council to refer cases involving crimes against the Yezidis to the International Criminal Court or to create a specific tribunal for genocide committed against the community.

Germany, home to a large Yezidi 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.

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 offenses to be prosecuted even if they were committed in a foreign country.

The trial of al-Jumailly "sends a clear message", according to Navrouzov.

"It doesn't matter where the crimes were committed and it doesn't matter where the perpetrators are, thanks to the universal jurisdiction, they can't hide and will still be put on trial."