ISIS member on trial in Germany for aiding and abetting genocide of Yazidis

Press statement by victim’s counsel Amal Clooney, Sonka Mehner and Natalie von Wistinghausen, Yazidi NGO Yazda and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nadia Murad 

Koblenz, 11 January 2023

A criminal trial began today before the Higher Regional Court of the German city of Koblenz against a German ISIS member accused of aiding and abetting genocide following her abuse of a young Yazidi woman in support of ISIS’ campaign to wipe out the Yazidi community. 

The 37-year-old German national known as ‘Nadine K.’ returned to Germany from Syria last year and has been charged with aiding and abetting genocide as well as with war crimes and crimes against humanity including enslavement, religious and gender-based persecution and aiding and abetting rape and torture. A Yazidi survivor, here referred to as N., has joined the proceedings as a co-plaintiff and is the key witness in the case. She is represented by British barrister Amal Clooney and German lawyers Sonka Mehner and Natalie von Wistinghausen. 

During today’s opening hearing, prosecutors from the office of the Federal Public Prosecutor General presented the allegations. According to the indictment:  

  • The defendant and her husband travelled to ISIS territory in late 2014 to join the terrorist group.

  • The couple lived in several places in Iraq and Syria, where the defendant’s husband worked as a doctor for ISIS and treated ISIS fighters and the defendant supported him in this role; they also housed female ISIS members and stored a large number of explosives and weapons in their home.

  • For about three years, until March 2019, and across different locations, the couple held N. as a slave in their home, where she was raped and subjected to forced labour. The Yazidi woman, who was 21 years old at the time she was brought to their home, had been ‘gifted’ to the defendant’s husband by ISIS and was later transferred to and held at Al-Hol camp until she was able to escape.

  • The defendant knew that her husband regularly raped N. and beat her including when she tried to resist the rapes. The defendant facilitated the rapes and physical abuse by securing N.’s captivity including during her husband’s absence.

  • From dawn to dusk, the Yazidi woman was forced to work – she had to clean, cook, take care of the defendant’s children and animals. 

  • The defendant and her husband forced N. to pray 5 times a day according to Islamic rules and to observe fasting times during Ramadan.

  • The defendant knew about ISIS’ genocidal campaign against the Yazidi religious minority and she knew that her actions served ISIS’ declared goal of destroying the Yazidi faith.

Victim’s counsel Amal Clooney commented on the trial: ‘Yazidi genocide survivors have shown time and time again that they are committed to the pursuit of justice, no matter what the cost. It is an honour to represent the courageous victim in this case and many more survivors determined to have their day in court. And I congratulate Germany’s prosecutors for their work to ensure that ISIS members are not above the law.’

Sonka Mehner who will represent the survivor during the trial commented: ‘This trial is another milestone in coming to terms with the crimes committed by ISIS members against the Yazidi community. In our view, the prosecution is correct in assuming that these crimes amount to genocide. We will work to ensure that our client receives justice for the atrocities committed against her and her people.’

Natalie von Wistinghausen added: ‘Notwithstanding the horror N. has lived through during her year-long captivity, she is another Yazidi survivor who is brave and strong enough to face one of the alleged perpetrators in a courtroom, far away from home and from where the crimes took place. She is determined to give a detailed account of what she has suffered. Like all Yazidi’s, she seeks justice for herself and the whole community.’

Natia Navrouzov, Legal Advocacy Director at the global Yazidi NGO Yazda, which is also represented by Ms. Clooney, has collected thousands of Yazidi survivors’ testimonies and facilitated N.’s participation in the proceedings, added: ‘Once again, Germany is showing its leadership by bringing ISIS members to justice. However, trials in Germany cannot remain the only avenue for justice for ISIS survivors. Iraq and the international community need to design holistic transitional justice measures to address the harms caused by the conflict.’

Nadia Murad, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, who is herself a survivor of enslavement and torture at the hands of ISIS, commented: ‘I commend N. for her bravery in testifying. It is vital that we continue to offer safe ways for survivors of sexual violence to share their accounts and bring perpetrators to justice. Not only will trials and convictions help with the healing process for individual survivors and the Yazidi community as a whole, they will also help prevent future acts of violence.’


From August 2014, the Yazidi community in Iraq and Syria was targeted by ISIS through an organised campaign of executions, enslavement, sexual violence, and forced recruitment of child soldiers, as well as the forced displacement of an estimated 400,000 Yazidis from their homeland in Iraq. Almost 8 years after ISIS’ attack, thousands of Yazidi women and children who were abducted and enslaved by ISIS remain missing. These crimes have been recognised by the United Nations, national and international bodies and, more recently, German courts as amounting to genocide. 

German courts have so far convicted two ISIS members of genocide for their crimes against the Yazidis. The judgment issued by the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt in November 2021 against Iraqi national Taha A.-J. represents the first conviction of an ISIS member for genocide anywhere in the world. A second genocide conviction followed in May 2022 against German ISIS returnee Jalda A.. This case against Nadine K. is the third trial charging genocide and is expected to continue at least until the end of March. 

German courts have previously also convicted 5 other ISIS members of crimes against humanity and war crimes for their involvement in ISIS’ crimes against the Yazidis in 6 cases. These are the cases against Jennifer W.Sarah O.Nurten J.Omaima A. (who faced two separate trials) and Romiena S. Ms. Clooney, Ms. von Wistinghausen and/or Ms. Mehner, represented the Yazidi victims in all of these cases.

The defendant, Nadine K., was captured by Kurdish forces in 2019 as she and her family attempted to flee from Syria to Turkey. She and her children were detained in camps in northern Syria until their repatriation to Germany in March 2022. She was arrested upon her arrival and indicted in September 2022. 

The full list of charges against Nadine K. includes:

  • Membership in a foreign terrorist organisation; 

  • Aiding and abetting genocide by 

    • inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction,

    • causing serious mental harm to members of the group;

  •  Crimes against humanity including 

    • enslavement, 

    • severe deprivation of liberty,

    • religious and gender-based persecution; 

  • Aiding and abetting crimes against humanity including 

    • inflicting with the intent of destroying a population in whole or in part, conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction

    • forcible transfer, 

    • torture, 

    • rape 

    • severe mental harm;

  • Aiding and abetting war crimes including 

    • torture,

    • rape

    • forcible transfer;

  • War crimes against property;

  • Human trafficking and exploitation; 

  • Deprivation of liberty;

  • Aiding and abetting rape;

  • Violations of the War Weapons Control Act and Weapon’s’ Act.

Please find the Arabic translation of the press release here.

Note to editors:

Under German law, victims of grave crimes have the right to participate in criminal proceedings as ‘co-plaintiffs’ alongside the prosecution and defence. For her safety, the victim’s identity is not being revealed. She is therefore referred to as ‘N’ in this statement.

German law normally also does not permit disclosure of defendants’ full surnames. The defendant is therefore identified as ‘Nadine K.’ throughout this statement.