UNITAD Special Adviser Christian Ritscher Welcomes Landmark Genocide Conviction of ISIL Member
30 November 2021
Baghdad, 30 November 2021 – Special Adviser and Head of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da'esh/ISIL (UNITAD) Mr. Christian Ritscher today welcomed the landmark conviction of ISIL member Taha Al-J in Frankfurt for the crime of genocide.
“This conviction marks a significant moment in global efforts to deliver accountability for international crimes committed by ISIL, and in particular to achieving justice for the victims and survivors of the horrific acts they carried out against the Yazidi community. For the first time in a judicial judgement, we see these crimes called what they were: genocide. Victims have already waited so long but this provides hope of what can be achieved. I commend the work of the Office of the German Federal Prosecutor General, and all national prosecutors working towards this ultimate goal of pursuing accountability and achieving justice” Special Adviser Ritscher stated.
Mr. Al-J was found guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide by the Higher Regional Court following a 19-month trial in Frankfurt, Germany. This follows the conviction of his German wife, Jennifer W, for crimes against humanity in Munich earlier this year. In these proceedings, the court heard of Mr. Al-J’s role in the enslavement of a Yazidi female and her daughter in Falluja, and the subsequent death of the young girl as a result of Mr. Al-J tying her up outside in over 50oC temperatures.
UNITAD has recently concluded a structural investigation into crimes against the Yazidi community in Sinjar, with its initial findings presented to the Security Council in May 2021 confirming that the Team had found clear and convincing evidence that the crimes committed against the Yazidis constituted genocide, as also reflected in today’s judgement.
In the Taha Al-J case, UNITAD supported German prosecutors by engaging with witnesses in Iraq and was able to help confirm that documentation purportedly indicating the deceased Yazidi girl had survived were fraudulent.
The Special Adviser added: “I am pleased that this conviction was achieved with the support of UNITAD, particularly given my involvement in this case in my previous role as a German national prosecutor. This outcome demonstrates that through partnerships across national authorities, UNITAD, impacted communities and non-governmental organizations we can overcome the many hurdles faced in delivering justice for ISIL crimes”.
Mr. Ritscher further emphasized that the role played by UNITAD in this case represented a vindication of the vision and global leadership demonstrated by the Government of Iraq in establishing the Investigative Team and supporting its work. UNITAD will continue to work with Iraqi authorities in order to support further prosecutions of ISIL members in a manner that reflects the profound impact their crimes had on so many communities in Iraq.