Europe is not doing enough to prosecute Islamic State terrorists for Yazidi genocide
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- Islamic State ISIS is an Islamic extremist terrorist organization controlling territory in Iraq...[+]
Affected Countries: iraq;
Seven years on from a genocide that killed an estimated 10,000 Yazidi people in northern Iraq, European countries are grappling with how to prosecute those responsible for some of the worst atrocities of the 21st century.
In early August 2014 in Sinjar province, members of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group began murdering men who refused to convert to Islam and leaving their bodies in unmarked mass graves, according to the United Nations.
“Thousands were killed pursuant to this ultimatum, either executed en masse, shot as they fled, or dying from exposure on Mount Sinjar as they tried to escape,” said Karim Asad Ahmad Khan, head of a UN team probing ISIS crimes.
“Thousands more were enslaved, with women and children abducted from their families and subjected to the most brutal abuses, including serial rape and other forms of unendurable sexual violence. For many, this abuse lasted years, often leading to death.”
An estimated 7,000 Yazidi women and girls, some as young as nine, were enslaved and forcibly transferred to locations in Iraq and eastern Syria. Held in sexual slavery, survivors reported being repeatedly sold, gifted, or passed around among ISIS fighters. Young Yazidi boys, meanwhile, were forced to join ISIS as child soldiers.
Despite clear evidence of ISIS’s role in these atrocities, prosecuting those responsible has not been straightforward. No international or regional court has been established and former ISIS members responsible for crimes against Yazidis remain detained in Iraq and Kurdish-controlled Syria in conditions that have been criticised by human rights NGOs.
As Syria remains war-torn and largely under the control of Bashir Al-Assad, there is little likelihood of justice being delivered through courts there. While Iraqi courts have prosecuted thousands of former ISIS militants, it has been predominantly based on membership of the terrorist group rather than the specific crimes committed against the Yazidis.
“The legal process in Iraq is not transparent. Survivors don’t even know if it’s happening, and they’re not involved,” says Abid Shamdeen, the director of Nadia’s Initiative, the NGO founded by the Nobel prize winner Nadia Murad that advocates for survivors of sexual violence.
“There were also many European and US nationals who participated to a certain degree in the attacks against the Yazidi people,” notes Shamdeen, “and there are no ways that the Iraqi courts will be able to prosecute them.”
It has been well-documented that many European nationals travelled from Europe to join ISIS, while other ISIS members were able to obtain refuge after the collapse of the so-called caliphate.
To date, proceedings in France, Germany, Latvia, and the Netherlands have been issued against ISIS or other extremist militants on terrorism charges.
Germany has been leading the way in prosecuting ISIS members for specific crimes committed against Yazidis.
More than 1,200 German citizens are estimated to have joined ISIS, including ‘Sarah O.’ who travelled from Germany to Syria in 2013 to join the terror group. In Syria, she married ‘Ismail S’, another German national who remains wanted by authorities in Germany.
Over a two-year period from 2015-2017, the couple bought and enslaved seven Yazidi women and girls. The Yazidis were abused by the couple and one 14-year-old girl died while in captivity.
In June 2021, a German court convicted Sarah O. of membership in a foreign terrorist organisation i.e. ISIS, assault, deprivation of liberty, aiding and abetting rape, enslavement and religious and gender-based persecution as crimes against humanity.
The conviction for religious and gender-based persecution is “crucial as Yazidis are often perceived as one homogenous group in these cases,” said Alexandra Lily Kather, an international criminal justice consultant and visiting fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London.
“The communities were separated by ISIS according to age and to gender and according to the subgroups different crimes were committed: the men and elderly women were shot; the young women and girls were subject to sexual enslavement but also domestic servitude, and Yazidi boys were also enslaved and forcibly conscripted to ISIS.”
However, so far, most prosecutions of ISIS militants have focused on their membership of ISIS, rather than specific war crimes.
“It is a much more complex case to prove that a person committed a criminal act than to prove that the person was a member of an organisation,” said Nerma Jelacic, the director for external relations at the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CJIA). The international NGO gathers evidence in conflict zones for prosecutions in domestic and international criminal courts.
“It is crucial that the severity and context of criminal conduct and involvement of the suspects is reflected in the crimes investigated and prosecuted,” said Kather.
“In the context of crimes committed against the Yazidi by ISIS, these should be genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, alongside terrorism charges, because ultimately such trials will contribute to the historical record and be a reference for survivors in their call for reparations and redress.”
“Each survivor deserves to see their abuser held accountable and their suffering acknowledged in a court of law,” said Nadia Murad in a statement following the conviction of Omaima A. for aiding and abetting crimes against humanity in the Higher Regional Court of Hamburg on 26 July 2021.
The German woman was found to have assisted the enslavement of two Yazidi women who were kidnapped from Sinjar.
Source: Euro News