The landmark trial of an Iraqi man, identified as Taha al-J, has begun today in Frankfurt. The accused is facing several charges related to the torture of a mother and child belonging to the Yazidi community, which resulted in the child’s death. He is believed, along with his wife, a German national, to have purchased the pair as slaves before tying the girl to a window and causing her to die of thirst. At the same time, the mother was forced to stand outside in extreme heat, which resulted in her getting severe burns. What is remarkable about the specific trial, is that not only is he facing accusations of human trafficking and terrorism, having been a suspected member of the Islamic State, but also of genocide. Under the German criminal code, the definition of genocide is the intention to eliminate ‘‘in whole or in part, a national, racial, religious or ethnic group.’’ Hence, this person’s actions certainly fall under the definition for this particular offence.
Amal Clooney, one of the counsels representing the victim has stated “The arrest of Taha A.-J. is a milestone for survivors of ISIS’ brutal crimes. This is the first time a member of ISIS will face trial for the crime of genocide, anywhere in the world.” Despite the mobilization, crimes against Yazidis are still being committed in Iraq, she continued. At the same time, the head of Yazidi NGO, Yazda, has spoken out in support of the trial by saying “We are delighted genocide charges are presented against an ISIS member at a German court. Victims of the Yazidi genocide have waited five long years for justice to be served. Every single member of ISIS should be held accountable for their actions against Yazidis and all communities in Iraq and Syria.”
The news is certainly positive and encouraging, as it seems that the plight of the Yazidis is finally being taken into consideration on a global scale. It is also commendable for Germany, to persecute someone who’s only ties to the country were through his wife, neither of which commited a crime in German territory or against German nationals. In my opinion, more countries should follow the German example, especially Iraq where the genocide took and still is taking place. By presenting a unified front, even more perpetrators can be identified and face justice. This is the least that can be done in order to help the community heal and eventually return to its original state.
The Yazidis are a unique ethnic group mostly concentrated around Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq. In 2014, at the height of the IS conflict and control in the region, their homeland was stormed by IS fighters. The result was 1,280 killed Yazidi people, with about 6,400 kidnapped, based on U.N. figures. This constitutes genocide according to the same body. A large number of these people has been sold into slavery and experienced inconceivable abuse, from torture to rape and forced labour. Following the campaign against IS in Iraq, few Yazidis have managed to return to their ancestral homeland, out of fear and mistrust. Unfortunately, this is not only unique to Iraq, with BBC reporting the story of a Yazidi refugee in Germany who encountered her captor there.
Obviously, the trial is an excellent first step in bringing justice to those that are suffering from the violence and oppression brought about by IS. The question is whether it is enough to ease that burden. More countries should show solidarity to the Yazidis and take a proactive approach to punishment of those found to be guilty of such offences. More importantly, a stricter stance must be taken on terrorism, with countires being held accountable for the actions of their citizens, especially abroad. This way, the overall impact of such actions can potentially be reduced.