29. December 2020 – ADVOCACY



As a human rights organization founded immediately after the genocide of the Yazidis to provide assistance to the women who escaped from IS captivity, we demand that the German government and the international community give the highest priority to prosecuting the perpetrators. The most serious crimes affect the international community as a whole and cannot remain unpunished. This is especially true when the perpetrators come from Germany. Hundreds of Germans have murdered in the name of IS in Iraq and Syria in recent years, raped women and children and systematically committed human rights crimes against Yazidis.

We are therefore exchanging information with international organizations and security authorities, and in Germany with political representatives and domestic security authorities, in particular, the Federal Criminal Police Office and ZBKV.

When Germany established the International Criminal Code in 2002, it promised to make an active contribution to the international prosecution of crimes under international law – and it has not remained idle in doing so. The fact that the Office of the Attorney General of Germany is investigating IS as part of a structural investigation and that several suspects have already been detained is absolutely to be welcomed. It is also positive that the Public Prosecutor General’s International Criminal Law Unit has clearly shifted its focus in recent years toward Syria and Iraq. The rising numbers of investigations conducted by the Office of the Attorney General clearly indicate such a shift.

Despite these achievements, however, prosecution efforts so far are still in contrast to the mass sexual crimes committed against Yazidi women and girls. This is because, to date, there has been no focus on addressing sexual violence in Germany’s persecution efforts. To this day – four years after the genocide against the Yazidis – there are still no charges of genocide.

And this, even though thousands of European citizens in the ranks of the so-called Islamic State have participated in the crimes against humanity – Europe cannot and must not refuse dealing with and prosecuting the crimes. With regard to its own history and the Nuremberg Trials, we also see Germany as having a duty. We are convinced that the legal reappraisal of these crimes not only makes justice possible in individual cases, but also represents a very specific concept of historical justice: It is our historical responsibility to make the break between a violent past and a peaceful future based on the rule of law. Historical justice is a necessary condition for long-term peace.

Germany is one of the few countries in which the principle of international law applies. This is precisely why Germany plays a key role in the fight against impunity in Syria and Iraq.

Despite the undoubted efforts of the law enforcement authorities to punish the horrific crimes of the Islamic State, however, not all possibilities are being exhausted.

Düzen Tekkal, political scientist, documentary filmmaker and founder of the human rights organization HAWAR.help and Dr. Alexander Schwarz, an international law expert at the University of Leipzig, an expert on gender-based persecution of Yazidis by members of IS and HAWAR.help international law expert, therefore demand:

  • Do not leave out crimes of sexual violence. We call on the Office of the Attorney General to focus investigations on sexual violence against Yazidi women and girls.
  • Special protection for sexual violence victims. Witnesses who have been victims of sexual violence must be protected from suffering further psychological pain during questioning. In order to achieve this, it is necessary for therapy, counseling and law enforcement to work closely together and to ensure psychosocial support at all times.
  • Understanding cultural backgrounds. Prosecutors, police and translators need to be familiarized with the cultural backgrounds of the witnesses.
  • Adequate personnel resources at the ZBKV. The crimes against the Yazidis under international law are currently being investigated by the so-called “Central Office for Combating War Crimes and Other Crimes under the International Criminal Code” (ZBKV) in order to provide evidence for future criminal trials. Yazidi victims are questioned for this purpose by specially formed and appropriately trained “women’s teams” of the BKA. To date, the ZBKV has already received more than 4,500 tips, which amounts to a mammoth task in view of the difficulty of the matter. However, this mammoth task currently has to be handled by just thirteen police officers and four employees. More employees are urgently needed here.
  • Provide the ZBKV with financial resources. In addition to personnel resources, there is also a need for action regarding the financial resources of the ZBKV. In the race against time, the numerous indications of crimes under international law must be followed up as promptly as possible, not according to the financial situation.
  • Comprehensive preservation of evidence. Due to the flight movements of recent years, a large number of potential witnesses for international crimes are within the reach of German authorities. By systematically identifying the witnesses, systematically recording their statements and systematically securing the evidence they bring with them (such as videos on smartphones), timely, continuous and comprehensive preservation of evidence must take place.
  • Strengthen the International Criminal Law Unit. As with the ZBVK, the financial resources of the International Criminal Law Unit of the Office of the Attorney General must be significantly improved. Currently, there are only seven positions there, which is too few given the extent and quality of the crimes. An increase in staff would contribute significantly to enabling more effective prosecution.
  • More liaison officers. Collecting evidence requires intensive international cooperation, which is currently lacking. For example, the BKA has only one liaison officer in Lebanon, who has secondary responsibility for Syria. There is even no liaison at all for Iraq. In order to pave the way for effective prosecution, considerably more liaison officers need to be deployed.
  • Facilitate exchange. Perpetrators and victims of IS crimes under international law are now scattered halfway around the world, and countless national and international organizations are engaged in collecting evidence. Improving exchanges between national and international (law enforcement) agencies should not only result in significant gains in time and efficiency but in many cases enable meaningful prosecutions in the first place.
  • The target of all individual measures must be to enable Germany to prosecute crimes under international law effectively and promptly through the national judiciary.

IS has committed massive crimes under international law and those responsible should not expect their crimes to go unpunished. We owe it to the survivors that the perpetrators are held accountable for their crimes. And not in twenty or thirty years, but as soon as possible.

This is not only about individual justice, but also about historical justice. After all, the trials not only end with a verdict, but also simultaneously document the individual crimes for the sake of future generations.

Rigorous prosecution of international crimes by German authorities would be an important signal to the victims of the crimes – and a warning to all future international law violators. There cannot be a safe haven for the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes under international law. Not in Germany, but also not in any other country in the world. It is time to end the inadequate processing of human rights crimes against the Yazidis.