Yezidi survivor testifies in Erbil: French judicial delegation pursues accountability for crimes against Yezidis

A French judicial delegation visited Erbil on Thursday to hear the testimony of a Yezidi who was allegedly enslaved by a family accused of belonging to ISIS.
A French judicial delegation on Thursday visited Erbil (Photo: Yann Braem/X)
A French judicial delegation on Thursday visited Erbil (Photo: Yann Braem/X)

ERBIL (Kurdistan24) – A delegation from the Paris court and the National Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor's Office and the Ministry of Interior on Thursday visited Erbil to hear a young Yezidi female survivor use her testimony to investigate a case of crimes against humanity and terrorism in France.

The Yezidi victim was allegedly a slavery victim of foreign ISIS terrorist fighters. “An individual is being accused of being part of Daash (ISIS), but the judicial process has not finished yet,” French Consul General Yann Braem told Kurdistan 24 in an exclusive interview on Thursday.

“There was a delegation from the French police, the French prosecutor or the French judge coming to Erbil in order to interrogate one Yezidi victim, who had been presumably a victim, since the legal proceedings have not finished yet.”

“The visit of this delegation from France clearly illustrates that for French judicial authorities, there will be no impunity for the crimes committed against Yezidi’s by French nationals,” French Consul General Braem underlined.

He also added that the visit of the delegation and the judiciary process that is going on is not possible without active cooperation of both Iraqi and Kurdish judicial authorities.

“Their cooperation has been very active and we thank them very much for this, the facilitation and all that has been made in order to allow this French delegation to come to Kurdistan.”

He added that it is important that this delegation was able to come to Erbil to receive the first hand testimony of this young Yezidi victim, who was allegedly enslaved by the wife of a French ISIS foreign fighter. “This will allow us for the first time to confront one person who is accused of terrorism acts, but also crimes against humanity, to confront her with her victim.”

He also added that if the French court condemns the French ISIS suspect, this will allow the Yezidi victim for the first time to get “compensated from what she has suffered.”

In August 2014, ISIS carried out a genocide against the Yezidi community in Sinjar, displacing thousands to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. ISIS also enslaved hundreds of Yezidi women and sold them as slaves. Moreover, ISIS converted Yezidi children to Islam and attempted to use them as child soldiers.

Read More: UN experts: ISIS committed genocide against Yezidis

A UN probe concluded in 2021 that crimes committed against Yezidis by ISIS amounted to genocide.

In Oct. 2021, judicial authorities in Sweden and France set up a joint investigation team (JIT) to support proceedings involving international crimes committed by foreign ISIS fighters against Yezidis, which led to the identification of a Yezidi victim of a French jihadist couple. The Netherlands and Belgium joined this team last year.

Read More: Sweden and France set up joint investigation team for crimes against Yezidis

“For France, crimes have to be judged where they took place. But in this case, an individual located in France is prosecuted under the charges of terrorist acts and crimes against humanity at the time of Daesh (ISIS),” French Consul General Braem added. “We want to prosecute them and judge them and if they are found guilty, then we will be put in custody.”

He underlined that any Yezidi victims that were victimized by French foreign ISIS fighters are ‘very much welcome’ to come forward and testify, so that the French judicial authorities will prosecute persons involved in these crimes against humanity.

Yezidi activists have expressed support for the legal actions taken by France against foreign ISIS fighters.

Pari Ibrahim, the Founder and Executive Director of the Free Yezidi Foundation (FYF), told Kurdistan 24 that "every case where the crimes against Yezidis are recognized in a court of law is valuable."

"Most European ISIS members only face terror-related charges, if any charges at all. We know the French war crimes unit and we believe they are committed to bringing charges for atrocity crimes against French nationals who committed such acts in Iraq and Syria,” she added.

Murad Ismail, the co-founder and president of Sinjar Academy, told Kurdistan 24 that individual efforts "by states like the recent one by France are positive, but on the larger scale, they should not replace a mechanism for accountability for the entire Yazidi case, where tens of thousands of Yazidis became victims of genocide."

Read More: UNITAD chief says end to UNITAD mission will be a loss to Iraq

"We acknowledge that efforts to hold thousands of ISIS members accountable are nearing an end without achieving meaningful justice. The UNITAD mandate is ending, and it is unclear what will happen to the evidence collected. No court will be established, and it seems Yazidis will only see a few trials here and there, without the chance to witness justice for thousands of cases."

"We encourage our friends to work with us to find an alternative and a new mechanism post-UNITAD," Ismail concluded.