Yazidi survivor joins proceedings against German ISIS member on trial for international crimes

On 22 November 2019, a Yazidi woman who was a victim of crimes committed by ISIS joined the criminal case against Sarah O, a 21-year-old German national. This defendant is on trial before the Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf on charges of war crimes, terrorism, human trafficking and deprivation of liberty. The Court has stated that the crimes allegedly committed by the defendant could also qualify as crimes against humanity.


According to the indictment, the defendant travelled to Syria to join ISIS at the age of 15 in October 2013. Together with her husband, ‘Ismail S’, who is still at large, she was a member of ISIS’ police force. For over two years, starting in 2015, they enslaved a Yazidi woman and two Yazidi girls in their household. The defendant was arrested in Turkey in February 2018 and was deported to Germany in September 2018 where she was arrested on entry. She has been detained since that time.

Amal Clooney, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, and German attorneys Natalie von Wistinghausen and Sonka Mehner represent the Yazidi woman who has just joined the proceedings. Their client is one of the women who was enslaved by the defendant and her husband and subjected to brutal acts including sexual violence while in captivity. 


This is the second known trial anywhere in the world in which an ISIS member has been charged with international crimes committed against Yazidis. In April of this year, the trial against Jennifer W on charges of murder of a child as a war crime opened in Munich. And last month, Jennifer W’s husband, Taha A.-J., was transferred from Greece to Germany to stand trial for alleged crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, human trafficking and war crimes. It is expected that his trial will begin in 2020.


Murad Ismael, Executive Director of the Yazidi Global NGO Yazda, said: "The Yazidi people are grateful to Germany for taking the right steps in conducting trials against perpetrators of the Yazidi Genocide. Our people demand fair trials against all ISIS suspects who are detained in Iraq, Syria, and abroad, and against those — and they are in the thousands — who continue to be free. Justice is not only important for Yazidi victims, it is also important to expose and fight the ideology which represents a global and dangerous phenomenon."

Note to editors:  

The defendant’s trial began in Düsseldorf, Germany, on 16 October 2019. Proceedings are closed to the public as the defendant was a minor during part of the time the alleged events took place.

German law provides that victims of grave crimes have rights as ‘accessory prosecutors’ and can participate fully in the proceedings alongside the prosecution and defence. 


- For a German version, please click here.

- For an Arabic version, please click here.


For Amal Clooney’s statement to the UN Security Council on the need for accountability for ISIS’ crimes, please click here or watch video here

For Amal Clooney’s statement at the UN General Assembly on international accountability options for ISIS’s crimes, please click here.

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