ISIS member on trial in Germany for aiding and abetting genocide of Yazidis
Press statement by victim’s counsel Amal Clooney, Sonka Mehner and Natalie von Wistinghausen, Yazidi NGO Yazda and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nadia Murad
Date: Koblenz, 11 January 2023
A criminal trial began today before the Higher Regional Court of the German city of Koblenz against a German ISIS member accused of aiding and abetting genocide following her abuse of a young Yazidi woman in support of ISIS’ campaign to wipe out the Yazidi community.
The 37-year-old German national known as ‘Nadine K.’ returned to Germany from Syria last year and has been charged with aiding and abetting genocide as well as with war crimes and crimes against humanity including enslavement, religious and gender-based persecution and aiding and abetting rape and torture. A Yazidi survivor, here referred to as N., has joined the proceedings as a co-plaintiff and is the key witness in the case. She is represented by British barrister Amal Clooney and German lawyers Sonka Mehner and Natalie von Wistinghausen.
During today’s opening hearing, prosecutors from the office of the Federal Public Prosecutor General presented the allegations. According to the indictment:
- The defendant and her husband travelled to ISIS territory in late 2014 to join the terrorist group.
- The couple lived in several places in Iraq and Syria, where the defendant’s husband worked as a doctor for ISIS and treated ISIS fighters and the defendant supported him in this role; they also housed female ISIS members and stored a large number of explosives and weapons in their home.
- For about three years, until March 2019, and across different locations, the couple held N. as a slave in their home, where she was raped and subjected to forced labour. The Yazidi woman, who was 21 years old at the time she was brought to their home, had been ‘gifted’ to the defendant’s husband by ISIS and was later transferred to and held at Al-Hol camp until she was able to escape.
- The defendant knew that her husband regularly raped N. and beat her including when she tried to resist the rapes. The defendant facilitated the rapes and physical abuse by securing N.’s captivity including during her husband’s absence.
- From dawn to dusk, the Yazidi woman was forced to work – she had to clean, cook, take care of the defendant’s children and animals.
- The defendant and her husband forced N. to pray 5 times a day according to Islamic rules and to observe fasting times during Ramadan.
- The defendant knew about ISIS’ genocidal campaign against the Yazidi religious minority and she knew that her actions served ISIS’ declared goal of destroying the Yazidi faith.
Victim’s counsel Amal Clooneycommented on the trial: ‘Yazidi genocide survivors have shown time and time again that they are committed to the pursuit of justice, no matter what the cost. It is an honour to represent the courageous victim in this case and many more survivors determined to have their day in court. And I congratulate Germany’s prosecutors for their work to ensure that ISIS members are not above the law.’
Sonka Mehner who will represent the survivor during the trial commented: ‘This trial is another milestone in coming to terms with the crimes committed by ISIS members against the Yazidi community. In our view, the prosecution is correct in assuming that these crimes amount to genocide. We will work to ensure that our client receives justice for the atrocities committed against her and her people.’
Natalie von Wistinghausen added: ‘Notwithstanding the horror N. has lived through during her year-long captivity, she is another Yazidi survivor who is brave and strong enough to face one of the alleged perpetrators in a courtroom, far away from home and from where the crimes took place. She is determined to give a detailed account of what she has suffered. Like all Yazidi’s, she seeks justice for herself and the whole community.’
Natia Navrouzov, Legal Advocacy Director at the global Yazidi NGO Yazda, which is also represented by Ms. Clooney, has collected thousands of Yazidi survivors’ testimonies and facilitated N.’s participation in the proceedings, added: ‘Once again, Germany is showing its leadership by bringing ISIS members to justice. However, trials in Germany cannot remain the only avenue for justice for ISIS survivors. Iraq and the international community need to design holistic transitional justice measures to address the harms caused by the conflict.’
Nadia Murad, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, who is herself a survivor of enslavement and torture at the hands of ISIS, commented: ‘I commend N. for her bravery in testifying. It is vital that we continue to offer safe ways for survivors of sexual violence to share their accounts and bring perpetrators to justice. Not only will trials and convictions help with the healing process for individual survivors and the Yazidi community as a whole, they will also help prevent future acts of violence.’