MUNICH: A Munich court on Monday sentenced a German woman who joined the Daesh group to 10 years in prison over the war crime of letting a five-year-old Yazidi “slave” girl die of thirst in the sun.
The tribunal handed down the verdict to Jennifer Wenisch, 30, in one of the first convictions anywhere in the world related to the militant group’s persecution of the Yazidi community.
Wenisch was found guilty of “two crimes against humanity in the form of enslavement,” said presiding judge Reinhold Baier of the superior regional court in Munich.
She was also guilty of aiding and abetting the girl’s killing by failing to offer help as well as membership of a terrorist organization.
She and her Daesh husband “purchased” a Yazidi woman and child as household “slaves,” whom they held captive while living in then Daesh-occupied Mosul, Iraq, in 2015, the court found.
“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 agonizing death of thirst in the scorching heat,” prosecutors told the court.
“The accused allowed her husband to do so and did nothing to save the girl.” Baier said the defendant had often complained about the girl and accepted the deadly consequences of her “punishment.”
“You must have known from the start that a child shackled in the blazing sun would be in mortal danger,” he told Wenisch.
The proceedings lasted two and a half years due to delays linked to the pandemic and other factors.
Wenisch’s husband, Taha Al-Jumailly, is also facing trial in separate proceedings in Frankfurt, where a verdict is due in late November.
According to media reports, Wenisch converted to Islam in 2013 and traveled the following year via Turkey and Syria to Iraq where she joined the militant group.
Recruited in mid-2015 to the group’s self-styled hisbah morality police, she patrolled city parks in Daesh-occupied Fallujah and Mosul.
Armed with an AK-47 assault rifle, a pistol and an explosives vest, her task was to ensure strict Daesh rules on dress code, public behavior and bans on alcohol and tobacco.
In January 2016, she visited the German embassy in Ankara to apply for new identity papers. When she left the mission, she was arrested and extradited days later to Germany.
Federal prosecutors had called for a life sentence for Wenisch.
Identified only by her first name Nora, the child’s mother has repeatedly testified in both Munich and Frankfurt about the torment visited on her child.
The defense had claimed the mother’s testimony was untrustworthy and said there was no proof that the girl, who was taken to hospital after the incident, actually died.
Wenisch’s lawyers had called for her to receive a two-year suspended sentence for supporting a terrorist organization.
When asked during the trial about her failure to save the girl, Wenisch said she was “afraid” that her husband would “push her or lock her up.”
At the close of the trial, according to the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, she claimed she was being “made an example of for everything that has happened under Daesh.”
A Kurdish-speaking group hailing from northern Iraq, the Yazidis were specifically targeted and oppressed by the IS beginning in 2015.
London-based human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who has been involved in a campaign for Daesh crimes against the group to be recognized as a “genocide,” was part of the team representing the Yazidi girl’s mother.
Germany has charged several German and foreign nationals with war crimes and crimes against humanity carried out abroad, using the legal principle of universal jurisdiction which allows crimes to be prosecuted even if they were committed in a foreign country.
A handful of female suspects are among those who have appeared in the dock.
In November 2020, a German woman identified as as Nurten J. was charged with crimes against humanity allegedly committed while she was living in Syria as a member of Islamic State.
In October 2020, another German court sentenced the German-Tunisian wife of a rapper-turned-jihadist to three-and-a-half years in prison for having taken part in the enslavement of a Yazidi girl in Syria.