German federal prosecutors on Wednesday said they had charged a German woman with crimes against humanity allegedly committed while she was living in Syria as a member of the Islamic State jihadist group.
The suspect, identified only as Nurten J. and the mother of several children, is accused of crimes related to the persecution of the Yazidi minority in territory controlled by IS.
Nurten J. is believed to be the first European woman charged with crimes against humanity over abuses committed in Syria as part of the jihadist group.
In a statement, prosecutors said the woman travelled to Syria with her then three-year-old daughter in 2015 to join IS and marry an IS fighter, also from Germany, with whom she had other children.
Throughout 2016 and 2017 she received frequent visits from a friend who owned a Yazidi “slave” also forced to do housework at the suspect’s home.
Nurten J. was “following the ideology of IS according to which the enslavement of the Yazidis was justified”, the prosecutors in Karlsruhe said.
The suspect also stands accused of war crimes against property for living in a home that had been seized by IS from its rightful occupants, and for endangering her daughter by taking her to a war zone.
In addition, she faces charges for violating weapons laws.
After IS lost its territories in Syria, the woman was held in Kurdish captivity before being transferred to custody in Turkey and then sent back to Germany.
– Dying of thirst –
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.
Few of the charges so far have involved women, however.
A German woman named as Jennifer W. went on trial in Munich last year accused of the war crime of letting a five-year-old Yazidi girl die of thirst in Iraq.
Both the child and her mother were held captive as household slaves by Jennifer W. and her IS husband, an Iraqi national. He is on trial in Germany for genocide and murder.
Last month, 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.
The Islamic State group committed atrocities against the Yazidis in 2014 that are being investigated by the UN to determine whether they can be qualified as genocide.