last week had good news for human rights: Two cases of gross human rights violations have been filed in German courts!
On Friday, 24 April 2020, the court case against the Iraqi citizen and ISIS supporter Taha Al-J. was opened at the Higher Regional Court in Frankfurt am Main. The list of charges is long: killing for base motives, war crimes against persons, human trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation and – what makes this trial so remarkable: crimes against humanity and genocide. The reason for the indictment of these acts is the enslavement, serious malreatment and, ultimately, the death of a five-year-old Yazidi girl, for which Taha Al-J. stands accused.
The day before, the proceedings against two former functionaries of the President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, were opened at the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz. They are accused of torture and complicity in torture in a total of more than 4,000 cases, serious sexual offences and – the main defendant – the death of 58 people whom, according to all information available to date, they committed in the torture chambers of the Assad regime. This is the world’s first trial on state torture in Syria.
What makes the Frankfurt trial against the IS supporter so unique is the fact that the Federal Prosecutor General’s Office wants to prove an individual genocidal intent on his part in connection with these acts: he is alleged to have committed them in accordance with the aims of ISIS to exterminate the Yazidis as an ethnic group. This is the first time that a member of the Islamic State, who is said to have participated in the genocide of the Yazidi minority, is explicitly on trial for this crime; an unprecedented event worldwide! Since the foundation of our human rights organization, we have tirelessly insisted on the consistent prosecution of the genocidal crimes of ISIS against the Yazidis! The work of the human rights organizations, which stand up for the interests of the Yazidis in this matter, is bearing fruit!
Both the torture trial in Koblenz and the Frankfurt genocide trial are made possible by the application of a progressive legal principle: the principle of world law. It enables all criminal courts worldwide to legally prosecute serious crimes relevant under international law, which neither occurred on German territory nor were committed by German citizens – an indispensable instrument in the fight against terror orchestrated by internationally networked perpetrators in a globalized world! This allows perpetrators to be brought to trial who might otherwise go unpunished. As in the case of Taha Al-J., who could be brought from Greece to Germany by international arrest warrant. We are very pleased that Germany is now spearheading the international prosecution of crimes against humanity and implementing the principle of universal jurisdiction: “No safe haven for the perpetrators and no impunity!” – an approach that we have been following since the foundation of our organization: No safe haven must be offered to the perpetrators of the most serious crimes against humanity – neither here nor anywhere else in the world! It is imperative that the victims be heard and that an end be put to impunity; as is now happening in the Frankfurt trial! This is a start. But the trial must be followed by many more, so that the many crimes committed do not go unpunished!
In the future we want to work even more closely with the German jurisdiction to bring the murderers and rapists of the Yazidis to justice and have already set the course for this.
The opening of the genocide trial was attended by our Chairwoman Düzen Tekkal and the international law expert Dr. Alexander Schwarz, who advises us on human rights and international law issues. The latter will continue to attend the Frankfurt trial dates in the coming weeks and follow the events for us, for which we are particularly grateful to him! This will enable us to follow all events in the courtroom at source and report on the trial in the coming weeks.
We have also produced a short film about it, which we recorded on site: In the video, Düzen Tekkal and Dr. Alexander Schwarz explain the background and the significance of the trial as a blueprint for future legal reappraisal of the ISIS-led genocide against the Yazidis. We owe the victims a more extensive reappraisal in the criminal courts because we as the international community of states were not able to prevent the genocide. Anything we refrain from doing now will prepare the ground for further genocides, so that soon we will remember a different genocide every day of the year.
We hope that our April Bulletin will provide you with many insights! Best wishes and thanks for your attention and continued support – also from our great partners! -, without which our work would not be possible at all!
The HAWAR.help team