An Iraqi ISIS member has been sentenced to life in jail by a German court for genocide against the Yazidi community, in the world's first verdict to use the label for crimes committed against the minority.
Taha Al Jumailly, 29, was found guilty in Frankfurt of genocide, crimes against humanity resulting in death, war crimes, aiding and abetting war crimes, and bodily harm resulting in death after joining the terrorist group in 2013.
He was accused of enslaving a Yazidi mother and her 5-year-old daughter. The child died of heatstroke after she was chained up outside — without food or water — in Fallujah in the summer of 2015 when temperatures reached 50°C, as punishment for wetting the bed when she was ill. Al Jumailly also prevented them from practising their religion.
In making its decision, the court said it was vital "that the defendant acted to the detriment of the joint plaintiff and her daughter with the intent to eliminate the Yazidi religious minority. This intention is a prerequisite for the criminal offence of genocide."
The accused passed out in court when the verdict was announced, causing proceedings to be suspended.
In a separate trial held in Munich in October, Al Jumailly’s ex-wife Jennifer Wenisch was sentenced to 10 years in jail for crimes against humanity and her role in the 5-year-old girl's death.
Wenisch was convicted for "crimes against humanity in the form of enslavement" and aiding and abetting the girl's death by failing to offer help. She did not face genocide charges.
Nadia Murad, the Iraqi Yazidi human rights activist who escaped ISIS captivity in 2014, said today's verdict was a “historic conviction".
“This verdict is a win for survivors of genocide, survivors of sexual violence and the entire Yazidi community,” she said.
Although Germany has already convicted ISIS members who have returned to the country for crimes against the Yazidis, Tuesday’s judgment was the first time that a court has used the word genocide to describe what happened to the community.
Germany has used the legal principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows for prosecution even if alleged offences were committed in a foreign country.
“Germany is not only raising awareness about the need for justice but is acting on it. Their use of universal jurisdiction in this case can and should be replicated by governments around the world,” Ms Murad said.
The mother and child were from a village in Sinjar, which was attacked by ISIS in August 2014.
The Yazidi mother, who was represented by a team including human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, was a vital witness for the prosecution.
“This is the moment Yazidis have been waiting for,” said Ms Clooney. “To finally hear a judge, after seven years, declare that what they suffered was genocide. To watch a man face justice for killing a Yazidi girl — because she was Yazidi. There is no more denying it — ISIS is guilty of genocide.”
About 10,000 Yazidis were killed when ISIS swept through northern Iraq in 2014 and about 7,000 women and girls were enslaved.