The trial of a German woman charged with letting a five-year-old Yazidi girl die of thirst in Iraq began on Tuesday, the first trial of an ISIS militant for crimes against the Yazidi community anywhere in the world.
The woman, identified only as Jennifer W., 27, appeared in a Munich court facing charges of murder as a war crime, being a member of a terror organisation and violations of the German War Weapons Control Act in a trial which is due to last until September. If convicted, she could serve the rest of her life in prison.
Ms W, whose full name cannot be revealed for privacy reasons, left Germany for Turkey, then Syria and Iraq in 2014 after converting to Islam the year before, eventually becoming a member of ISIS’s morality police in Mosul and Fallujah. She and her husband, Taha Sabah Noori Al-J bought the young Yazidi girl and her mother in 2015 to use as slaves during their time in Mosul, prosecutors say.
"After the girl fell ill and wet her mattress, the husband of the accused chained her up outside as punishment and let the child die an agonising death of thirst in the scorching heat," prosecutors charge.
"The accused allowed her husband to do so and did nothing to save the girl.
The girl’s mother is being represented by international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney and German attorneys Natalie von Wistinghausen and Wolfgang Bendler.
“Yazidi victims of genocide have waited far too long for their day in court,” said Ms Clooney in a statement. “I am grateful to the German prosecutors who I have worked with for their commitment to holding ISIS members accountable for their crimes. And I hope that this will be the first of many trials that will finally bring ISIS to justice in line with international law.”
Ms W was initially allowed to return to her home of Lower Saxony after being extradited back to Germany following an attempt to renew identity papers at the Germany embassy in Ankara.
However, she was later arrested by German authorities after a sting operation involving the FBI, in which an informant offered to help her return to ISIS territory after her extradition.
During a car journey, she told the informant about the five-year-old’s death.
ISIS targeted the Yazidi community when they overran the area of Sinjar in northwestern Iraq in August 2014. The community was confronted by armed ISIS fighters, who killed men and boys over 12 and slaughtered those who refused to adopt their beliefs.
Researchers from the London School of Economics estimate at least 10,000 Yazidi people have been killed or kidnapped by ISIS and several thousand more are still unaccounted for. The UN’s refugee agency says many of the women taken by ISIS were subjected to imprisonment, torture and systematic rape, as part of a campaign of persecution that the UN has deemed “a genocide and a crime against humanity”.