Yezidi activists praise German conviction of ISIS member for genocide, stressing legal significance

Mourners gather around as a coffin is buried a coffin during a a mass funeral for Yezidi (Ezidi) victims of ISIS in the disputed Iraqi district of Sinjar (Shingal), Feb. 6, 2021. (Photo: Zaid al-Obeidi/AFP)
Mourners gather around as a coffin is buried a coffin during a a mass funeral for Yezidi (Ezidi) victims of ISIS in the disputed Iraqi district of Sinjar (Shingal), Feb. 6, 2021. (Photo: Zaid al-Obeidi/AFP)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Yezidi organizations have welcomed a German court ruling yesterday that convicted Iraqi ISIS militant Taha al-Jumailly on charges of genocide against members of the Yezidis (Ezidi) religious minority starting in 2014.

This is first verdict worldwide to specifically use the label "genocide," an important legal distinction. In the past, ISIS members have been sentenced to jail on the basis of individual crimes against Yezidis, but not genocide.

Read More: Germany jails Iraqi jihadist for life for Yezidi genocide

“This is certainly a historic day for Yezidis. We are thankful to the German authorities and to Christian Ritscher (a former German Federal Prosecutor), personally, for pursuing justice for Yezidis from 2014 in the context of international crimes,” Pari Ibrahim, the Founder and Executive Director of the Free Yezidi Foundation (FYF), told Kurdistan 24 on Wednesday.

“But remember that this conviction arose because Jennifer W. told about her crimes to an undercover FBI informant. How many European ISIS members guilty of international crimes are not prosecuted? This is only the beginning. Atrocity crimes demand truth and justice.”

A German ISIS member named publicly as Jennifer W. was sentenced in October to ten years in jail in a German jail for letting a five-year-old Yezidi child die of thirst in Iraq.

Read More: German ISIS wife sentenced to 10 years in jail

Murad Ismael, president and co-founder of the Sinjar Academy, told Kurdistan 24 that the ruling “was symbolically and materially important to our people. The rule confirmed once again that a genocide was indeed committed and that when there is will, it is possible to hold perpetrators accountable.” 

“Germany once again stands with justice and acts on the Yazidi (Yezidi) issue. We have no words to express our gratitude to them,” he added.

“While Iraq is neither interested in justice for the Yazidi genocide nor justice in a broad term, and as the international community is not willing to take a step further beyond investigation by UNITAD (United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by ISIS, the UN agency to investigate ISIS crimes), we and our friends who fight for justice will continue to press and open new avenues for more trials.”

Read More: Germany provides one million euros to UNITAD to help its investigations into ISIS financing 

Ismael added that everyone knows that only a “tribunal court can address the ISIS issue but there is no interest in that. There is, however, a great interest to hide the genocide and deliver little or no justice. But, we will never stop this fight until justice is served.”

Moreover, the Yezidi Nobel laureate Nadia Murad said on Tuesday in a public statement that the verdict is a win for survivors of genocide, survivors of sexual violence, and the entire Yazidi community.”

“Thank you to Germany for today's historic conviction. Germany is not only raising awareness about the need for justice but is acting on it. Their use of universal jurisdiction in this case can and should be replicated by governments around the world.”

Murad also thanked human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who represents Yezidi genocide survivors in several proceedings, including the co-plaintiff in the case against Jumailly.

“When survivors seek justice, they look for someone to give them hope that justice is possible," Murad said. “Amal gave me and many survivors hope that we will achieve justice. I am grateful to Amal for her tireless work to bring ISIS members to court.”

Germany prosecuted Taha Jumailly using the legal principle of ‘universal jurisdiction,’ which allows national prosecutors to try war criminals for atrocities they committed abroad. This applies even if the defendant is not German, as in this case where the defendant was an Iraqi national.

“We call on all nations to follow this example and assist in the prosecution of ISIS militants who perpetrated crimes against humanity and genocide of the Yazidi (Yezidi) people,” Clooney said.

Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani on Wednesday also welcomed the verdict.

Read More: PM Barzani welcomes German criminal ruling that recognizes ISIS genocide against Yezidis

“The verdict is a historic precedent and gives the global Yazidi community and survivors recourse to justice and recovery,” he concluded.