First Yazidi Genocide trial begins in Germany

FRANKFURT, Germany – A 27-year-old Iraqi national, known only as Taha al-J, and former member of the Islamic State (ISIS) will be brought before the Supreme Regional Court (SRC) in Frankfurt, Germany, on charges of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, membership in a foreign terrorist organization, human trafficking, and the murder of a Yazidi girl who he kept as a slave.

Al-J made his first appearance before judges in Frankfurt today. His wife, Jennifer W., has been on trial before the Higher Regional Court of Munich for membership of a foreign terrorist organization (ISIS), murder, murder as a war crime.

The couple allegedly purchased a Yazidi woman, Nora, and her five-year-old daughter, Rania, as slaves in the early summer of 2015. Both al-J and W are charged with murdering Rania, who the pair allowed to die of thirst in the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2015.

The beginning of W’s trial in April last year is the first trial in the world dealing directly with the persecution of the Yazidi community by ISIS. Al-J’s trial is the first in which charges of genocide have been brought against an individual related to the persecution of the Yazidis.

According to court documents, al-J joined the Islamic State in March 2013 and was an official in varying capacities in Raqqa, Syria – ISIS’s capital – as well as in Iraq and Turkey.

Nora and Rania were taken captive in August 2014 when ISIS attacked the Yazidi communities around Shengal Mountain and were sold several times at slave markets until they were eventually sold to al-J, who took them to Fallujah.

Nora has repeatedly testified in Munich about the brutality and torture she and her daughter endured at the hands of al-J and W.

“He forced them to wear a full veil, and did not accept the child’s name because it was a name of the infidel,” said chief prosecutor Anna Zadeck.

At times deprived of food and water, they were regularly beaten. Once Rania was beaten so badly, she had to spend four days in bed recovering, said prosecutors.

In the blistering heat of the summer of 2015, al-J and W forced Nora to walk barefoot on the scorching pavement causing severe burns. After a series of beatings, al-J chained Rania to a window in temperatures of 50 degrees Celsius as “punishment” for wetting the bed. She died of thirst.

Al-J’s trial is expected to last until at least August. Given the charge of genocide, however, the case is likely to last longer.

The burden of proof for proving charges of genocide is difficult, as an explicit intent to destroy an entire group must be demonstrated to judges’ satisfaction.

The explicit will to destroy a group such as the Yazidi must be demonstrated to judges’ satisfaction.

According to the United Nations, European Union, and several states, including Germany, France, Canada, and others, the August 2014 ISIS campaign against the Yazidis that resulted in the killings of at least 1,280 and the kidnappings of 6,400 more constitutes genocide.