29. December 2020 – ADVOCACY


An appeal to humanity:

In Syria as well as in Germany, victims of IS terror are terrified that they might meet their tormentors, who are still at large, again. This fear is reasonable, as over 80 German IS supporters are still being held in unsafe refugee camps and prisons in northern Syria today, two-thirds of whom are women. No one knows how many extremists have already been able to escape since Turkey’s Syria offensive because the Kurdish militias can no longer properly guard the detention centers. At the same time, Turkey has started deporting IS perpetrators to Germany – without having enough evidence to arrest them in here.

The victims of IS – especially women and children – will suffer lifelong trauma. “Even years after an act of sexual violence, victims tell me they often have to relive the act in dreams,” says HAWAR.help international law expert, Dr. Alexander Schwarz. “For survivors, this is compounded by the fact that thousands of loved ones – mothers, sisters, and sons – remain missing. We owe it to these people not to let the atrocities of your oppressors – abduction, rape, enslavement, and genocide – go unpunished.

As a human rights organization born out of the ashes of a genocide, we know the stories and sufferings of the survivors. Therefore, we – jointly with HAWAR.help international law expert Dr. Alexander Schwarz – demand that the German government takes the following steps:


  • Securing the detention centers: The German government must support the Kurdish authorities financially and/or with personnel in securing the detention centers. The ideology of IS lives on in these camps and the escape of countless radicalized IS perpetrators remains an imminent danger.
  • Cooperation between security authorities: In order to collect evidence against German IS adherents as quickly as possible, Germany must cooperate with the authorities in northern Syria. The first court decision obliging the authorities to repatriate an IS member and her children has already been delivered. It is highly likely that other relatives of IS fighters will successfully sue for repatriation and will subsequently be brought back to Germany. In order to protect the survivors and to prevent IS criminals from being released, close cooperation between Germany and the Kurdish authorities is essential. As soon as enough evidence is available, Germany must bring back its citizens so that they can be arrested immediately and prosecution against them can begin.
  • Treatment of crimes of sexual violence: We call on the Office of the Attorney General of Germany to focus investigations on sexual violence. Witnesses and victims who have suffered sexual violence must be protected from suffering further psychological pain during questioning. Culturally sensitive psychosocial support must be ensured at all times.
  • Promoting deradicalization programs: The women and men against whom there is insufficient evidence to justify imprisonment must be immediately placed in long-term deradicalization programs and in psychological care and observation.
  • Strengthening the responsible authorities in Germany: In order to guarantee comprehensive preservation of evidence, the responsible authorities in Germany – including the “Central Office for Combating War Crimes and Other Crimes under the International Criminal Code” (ZBKV) and the International Criminal Law Unit of the Attorney General’s Office – must be equipped with more human and financial resources.
  • Prosecution in the International Criminal Court: We call on the UN Security Council, in which Germany also sits, to authorize the International Criminal Court (ICC) through a resolution to start genocide investigations in Iraq and Syria or to establish a special tribunal.

Dealing with crimes under international law cannot remain a fragmented, national matter. Otherwise, it is highly likely that perpetrators of genocide will remain at large or that they will face the death penalty in Iraq’s summary trials. The latter would result in the absence of a true reappraisal of the crimes in which the victims participate. Ultimately, this would be a betrayal of those affected. We must do everything we can to help the victims of IS back to life – this includes rigorous prosecution. We owe them that.