German Federal Court Of Justice Confirms The First-Ever Conviction Of A Daesh Member For Genocide

On January 17, 2023, the German Federal Court of Justice confirmed the conviction against Daesh member Taha A.-J. for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed against Yazidi victims in Fallujah, Iraq. The decision comes after the Daesh member tried to appeal his conviction of November 2021. In its 2021 judgment, the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt found that in 2015, Taha A.-J. “purchased” and enslaved a five-year-old Yazidi girl named Reda and her mother. Taha’s wife was implicated as well. Taha and his wife held Reda and her mother as captives at their residence in Fallujah and forced them to practice Islam, work as slaves and deprived them of sufficient food. Taha would beat them and subject them to abuse. Reda died after Taha tied her with a cable outdoors to the bars of the window and left her in the heat of up to 51 degrees Celsius as a punishment for wetting the bed and a measure to “discipline” the girl.

The genocide conviction and life sentence were affirmed on appeal, and no further appeal is possible. The Federal Court of Justice confirmed that “the defendant’s actions, which caused serious harm to Reda [and her mother], in conjunction with similar actions by other [Daesh] members, were capable of destroying the Kurdish religious group of the Yazidi faith.” It further added that “it was precisely the organized enslavement of women and girls, especially in connection with religious re-education, that served to destroy the Yazidi religious minority in order to establish an Islamic caliphate. All in all, the approach was capable of bringing about … the (partial) destruction of this group as such.” The judgment is now final. Reda’s mother was represented by Amal Clooney, Natalie von Wistinghausen and Dr. Jörg Oesterle. Reda’s mother participated in the proceedings against Taha as a co-plaintiff after she was supported by Yazda, a non-governmental organization working with Yazidi communities.

As the German Federal Court of Justice confirmed the conviction of genocide, on January 18, 2023, human rights experts and politicians in the U.K. have called upon the U.K. government to recognize the atrocities as genocide, following at least two convictions of Daesh members for genocide. It is a long-standing policy of the U.K. government to recognize cases of genocide only if such a determination was established by a competent court. During a Parliamentary debate in February 2022, the U.K. government refused to recognize the atrocities as genocide as the Federal Court of Justice in Germany was considering the appeal. Now that the appeal is concluded, the U.K. government should make the determination without any further delays.

On January 23, 2023, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the parliamentary arm of the Council of Europe, adopted a resolution on “Addressing the issue of Daesh foreign fighters and their families returning from Syria and other countries to the member States of the Council of Europe.” The resolution calls for decisive steps to ensure justice and accountability, among others, and pending the setting up of an international or hybrid tribunal, to ensure the prosecution of Daesh foreign fighters in their States of nationality, or in other member states using universal jurisdiction. The resolution further calls upon Council of Europe Member States to consider bringing before the International Court of Justice “states which allegedly failed to prevent and punish acts of genocide committed by Daesh, in order to hold those states to account under the Genocide Convention.”

Eight years after the attack on Sinjar, and as over 2,700 Yazidi women and children are still missing, justice and accountability for the crimes of Daesh cannot be neglected. However, as the communities are still haunted by the atrocities, more needs to be done to assist victims and survivors and protect the communities and future generations from similar atrocities.