A coalition of Yazidi women filed a lawsuit against two top German government officials for failing to hold suspected German Islamic State fighters accountable for the genocide committed against Yazidis in Iraq and Syria.
The German news outlet Deutsche Welle reports that The Federation of the Yazidi Women’s Council has sued Justice Minister Katarina Barley and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.
The advocacy association represents females from the religious minority community decimated by IS (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh), which killed and sexually enslaved thousands upon thousands of Yazidis when it controlled swaths of territory in both countries.
The litigation was filed after the German government refused a request earlier this year from the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces to repatriate at least 61 captured Germans who traveled to Syria to join the terrorist group.
According to Deutsche Welle, the lawsuit accused Berlin of a “failure to accept the offer and to make possible the urgently necessary prosecution constitutes the crime of obstruction of punishment.”
The SDF, which is composed primarily of Kurdish, Arab, and Assyrian militias who serve as the official defense force of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, had previously accused the German government of “shirking" its responsibility to repatriate German IS militants so they could stand trial for war crimes.
However, DW notes that the Federal Prosecutor's Office has issued arrest warrants for 21 suspected German IS fighters. The charges range from supporting a terrorist organization to war crimes.
The council also accused the German government of committing a "criminal offense of obstruction of justice" by refusing the offers of repatriation.
"The result of this refusal to transfer German nationals in the custody of the local administration in northern and eastern Syria ... has delayed — if not prevented — punishment (from being doled out)," attorney Berthold Fresenius was quoted by public broadcasters as saying, according to DW.
Responding to the lawsuit, a German justice ministry spokesperson told AFP that there are obstacles standing in the way of Germany being able to bring suspected IS fighters home for trial.
The spokesperson stressed that “legal cooperation is impossible since there are no state structures” in the autonomous part of Syria.
In February, Germany’s interior ministry stressed that the extradition of foreign IS fighters is only possible so long as the suspects of consular access.
“In principle, all German citizens and those suspected of having fought for so-called IS have the right to return,” an interior ministry spokesperson said at the time, according to Reuters. “But in Syria, the German government cannot guarantee legal and consular duties for jailed German citizens due to the armed conflict there.”
The SDF has warned that it lacked the capacity to put all 800 to 1,000 foreign IS fighters in its custody on trial.
“We have provided the support we can by arresting them and detaining them in prisons, but who is going to take them to court?” Ilham Ahmed, co-chair of SDF’s political wing Syrian Democratic Council told Financial Times. “Who is going to [be] carrying out the prosecution?
In a series of tweets from February, U.S. President Donald Trump called on Britain, France and Germany to take back the hundreds of captured foreign IS fighters and put them on trial.
Trump stressed that it is "time for others to step up and do the job that they are so capable of doing."
“The Caliphate is ready to fall,” he tweeted. “The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them.”
Earlier this year, a German woman accused of joining IS went on trial in Iraq for the crime of letting a 5-year-old Yazidi girl die of thirst.
As noted by AFP, the case of the 27-year-old German is believed to be the first case worldwide for international crimes committed by IS jihadis against the Yazidi community.