A Munich court will decide on Monday whether a German woman believed to have joined the Islamic State jihadist group is guilty of the war crime of letting a five-year-old Yazidi “slave” girl die of thirst in the sun.
Jennifer Wenisch, 30, faces a maximum term of life in jail if found guilty of committing murder and murder as a war crime. She is also charged with membership of a terrorist organisation and violations of the German War Weapons Control Act.
German prosecutors allege Wenisch and her IS husband “purchased” a Yazidi woman and child as household “slaves” whom they held captive while living in then IS-occupied Mosul, Iraq, in 2015.
“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 agonising death of thirst in the scorching heat,” prosecutors charge.
“The accused allowed her husband to do so and did nothing to save the girl.”
Wenisch’s husband, Taha al-Jumailly, is also facing trial in separate proceedings in Frankfurt, where the verdict is due in late November.
Identified only by her first name Nora, the Yazidi girl’s mother has repeatedly testified in both Munich and Frankfurt about the torment allegedly visited on her child.
– Morality police –
But the defence has claimed the mother’s testimony is untrustworthy and says there is no proof that the girl, who was taken to hospital after the incident, actually died.
Wenisch’s lawyers want her to receive just a two-year suspended sentence for supporting a terrorist organisation.
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 IS”.
According to other media reports, Wenisch converted to Islam in 2013 and travelled the following year via Turkey and Syria to Iraq where she joined IS.
Recruited in mid-2015 to the group’s self-styled hisbah morality police, she patrolled city parks in IS-occupied Fallujah and Mosul.
Armed with an AK-47 assault rifle, a pistol and an explosives vest, her task was to ensure strict IS rules on dress code, public behaviour 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.
Wenisch’s trial, which began in April 2019, is one of the first examples of formal proceedings anywhere in the world related to the Islamic State group’s persecution of the Yazidi community.
– Universal jurisdiction –
A Kurdish-speaking group hailing from northern Iraq, the Yazidis were specifically targeted and oppressed by the jihadists beginning in 2015.
Prominent London-based human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who has been involved in a campaign for IS crimes against the Yazidi to be recognised as a “genocide”, is 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 named as Nurten J. was charged with crimes against humanity allegedly committed while she was living in Syria as a member of the Islamic State jihadist group.
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.