Joint Statement by Amal Clooney’s legal team and Yazda: Request for the Prosecution of Religious- and Gender-Based-Violence in the Yazidi Genocide Case in Germany
Frankfurt, 17 December 2020
In the trial against Taha A.-J., a 28-year-old Iraqi national, before the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt, victim’s counsel submitted a request to extend the existing charges against the defendant to include religious and gender-based persecution as a crime against humanity under Section 7 (1) No 10 of the German Code of Crimes against International Law. Current charges against the defendant include genocide, membership in a foreign terrorist organisation, slavery and torture as crimes against humanity, human trafficking, and war crimes, including the murder of a five-year-old Yazidi girl.
Victim’s counsel Natalie von Wistinghausen comments on the significance of the request:
“There is an urgent need to charge and prosecute acts of religious and gender-based violence committed by ISIS against the Yazidi community in accordance to what they are: deliberate and targeted crimes against humanity which formed part of a pattern and were committed especially against female members of the Yazidi community. This is an important step for the Yazidi community and other victims of gender-based violence.”
Victim’s counsel Amal Clooney says:
“The charges in this milestone case should reflect the full scope of criminal conduct in question. This includes genocide as well as crimes against humanity that targeted women for enslavement and sexual violence.”
Yazda’s President Haider Elias adds:
“Adding religious and gender persecution as crimes against humanity to the existing charges will help to legally qualify the horrific reality Yazidis suffered under ISIS and are suffering for hundreds of years now. Yazidis have indeed a long history of religious persecution exacerbated by ISIS members who never hide their aversion towards Yazidis calling them infidels and non-believers. From the hundreds of testimonies, we have collected so far, it is also obvious that ISIS extermination plan had a gender dimension: Men fit and strong enough to oppose resistance were executed or used as forced labour before being killed and dumped in mass graves. Women, girls and children were enslaved, used as sex and domestic slaves and forcibly militarised. Therefore, we hope that Germany and its legal system will allow the lawyers of the victim in the present case, and in future cases, to establish two essential elements on which ISIS systematically based its crimes against the Yazidis: gender and religion.”
From August 2014, the Yazidi community in Iraq and Syria was targeted by ISIS through an organised campaign of executions, enslavement, sexual violence, and forced recruitment of child soldiers, as well as the forcible displacement of an estimated 400,000 Yazidis from their homeland in Iraq. These crimes have been recognised by the United Nations, the German Federal Court of Justice, and other national and international bodies as amounting to genocide.
Yazda, a global Yazidi NGO, has been supporting survivors and documenting these crimes since its inception in early 2015. Its Documentation Project collects testimonies and preserves information. The project was instrumental in the identification of the mother of the murdered five-year-old Yazidi girl who testified in the Taha A.-J. case.
Taha A.-J. was arrested in Greece in May 2019 and subsequently transferred to Germany to stand trial for the alleged crimes. Although Taha A.-J. is not a German national, his victims are not German and his crimes have not been committed on German territory, German courts have jurisdiction over the crime of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity under the principle of universal jurisdiction. The trial against the defendant began in April 2020.
Amal Clooney, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, and German attorneys Natalie von Wistinghausen and Dr. Jörg Oesterle represent the girl’s mother who has joined the proceeding as ‘private accessory prosecutor’. Under German law, victims of grave crimes have such right and can participate fully in the proceedings alongside the prosecution and defence.
For a statement on the trial against Taha A.-J., please click here.
For a German version, please click the file below:
For an Arabic version, please click the file below"