A German court in Frankfurt on Tuesday, 30 November, sentenced an Islamic State terrorist to life for killing a five-year-old Yazidi girl who he and his wife had enslaved along with the girl's mother in Fallujah, Iraq, the New York Times reported.
The presiding judge in the trial was Christoph Koller.
In harrowing details that emerged from the testimony of the girl's 29-year-old mother, Taha Al-Jumailly was accused of tying the girl to a window grate and leaving her there to die of thirst on an extremely hot day.
His wife, Jennifer Wenisch, who is 30-years-old and a German who converted to Islam, was also sentenced last month, although the trial was separate and she was sentenced to 10 years in prison for supporting the killing, according to the Washington Post.
Taha, who is identified as so due to Germany's strict privacy laws, was not only sentenced to life in prison, but was also ordered to pay 50,000 euros ($57,000) in compensation to the victim's mother, who was a co-plaintiff in the trial.
It was the first conviction of an ISIS terrorist for committing genocide against the Yazadis, which had started in 2014 and had led to the killings of more than 5,000 people and the enslavement of thousands of Yazidi women and girls, according to data gathered by the United Nations.
Amal Clooney, an advocate part of the legal team that prosecuted Taha said in a statement that "this is the moment Yazidis have been waiting for," that is, "to finally hear a judge, after seven years, declare that what they suffered was genocide."
'Punishment' for Wetting her Bed
The trial started in April 2020.
The mother of the five-year-old girl testified that Taha Al-J. and his wife, Jennifer W. kept her and her daughter captive for many months after purchasing them as slaves in Fallujah, Iraq.
During their time in Fallujah, the mother said that she was coerced to do menial work in extremely harsh conditions, while her daughter was ordered to mind her own business.
One day, when it scorching hot, her daughter had wet her mattress and Taha Al-J, as a method of punishment, dragged her out and tied her to a window grate without any water in the heat.
She was left to die of thirst.
Judge Christoph Koller found Taha Al-J guilty of war crimes and of crimes against humanity, and sentenced him to life imprisonment along with a hefty fine that will be transferred to the mother as compensation.
Her identity has been kept a secret for security reasons, but she lives in Germany under a witness-protection program, according to Deutsche Welle.
The protagonists of this case, that is, neither the ISIS terrorist nor the victim and her mother, were not German.
Even the crime occurred in Falluja, Iraq. So how was the trial held in Germany?
The principle of "universal jurisdiction" was applied by the German courts to conduct this trial.
It is defined by the United Nations as "a legal principle allowing or requiring a state to bring criminal proceedings in respect of certain crimes irrespective of the location of the crime and the nationality of the perpetrator or the victim."
This is not the first time that a German court has such trials for those accused of war crimes in Iraq and Syria.
in February earlier this year, a German court convicted Eyad al-Gharib, a former officer of the Syrian government under Bashar-al Assad, for crimes against humanity in the first ever trial of officers working for Damascus. Under the principle of universal jurisdiction, he was sentenced to prison for four and a half years in prison.
Additionally, since April of 2020, a Syrian colonel who was handling a secret prison in Syria, has also been on trial in a court in Koblenz, a city in Western Germany, NYT reported.
Why were the Yazidis Hunted by ISIS?
The beliefs of the Yazidi sect are said to be a hybrid of beliefs from Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Islam.
Due to their unorthodox beliefs and their worship of an archangel called Melek Taûs (Peacock Angel in English), the Yazidis are often unjustly labelled as "devil worshippers" by hardline Sunnis like the Islamic State, according to The Guardian.
The Yazidi community which constitute of less than a million members globally, are predominantly Kurdish and have historically been restricted to northwestern Iraq, northwestern Syria and southeastern Turkey.
They have faced centuries of oppression, especially under the rule of the Ottoman Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries, enduring more than 70 genocidal massacres, The Guardian added.
Nevertheless the Yazadis have never abandoned their faith, despite the latest 2014 attacks on them conducted by the Islamic State that too in their ancestral homeland in northern Iraq. The United Nations had declared that ISIS had indeed committed genocide and that the 400,000 Yazidis in the region "had all been displaced, captured or killed."
The increased persecution and violence that the Yazidis have faced due to ISIS has forced thousands to seek asylum in Europe.
Some numbers estimate that more than 70,000 people, which is equivalent to approximately 15 percent of the Yazidis in Iraq, have left the country out of fear for their lives, BBC reported.
Despite the defeat of ISIS at the hands of the US and allied forces, and despite the Iraq government declaring victory over ISIS in December 2017, the Yazidis who survived the genocide and made displacement camps in Kurdistan their new home, remain too scared or too poor or a combination of both to return home.
One Yazidi man named Haji Ali told NPR that he would "be afraid of seeing the same ISIS men who took our Yazidi women ... and either I would have to kill him or he would kill me."
Some, however, have begun to return, out of love for their homeland.
"In Kurdistan they took care of us and respected us," says Qute Murad, "but we would rather live on bread and water here than eat meat and rice as displaced people", as quoted by the same NPR report.
(With inputs from NYT, NPR, BBC, Deutsche Welle, and Washington Post)