Criminal Justice and the Rule of Law: Memorandum Endorsement
On Monday, October 25, 2021, Jennifer Wenisch, a German woman who joined the Islamic State in Syria in 2014, was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment by a Munich court for terrorism and international crimes. She was found guilty of membership in a terrorist organization, aiding and abetting crimes against humanity through enslavement of Yazidis, and aiding and abetting the war crime of attempted murder by omission, for letting her husband chain a five-year-old Yazidi slave in the heat and letting her die of thirst. Germany, like several other European countries, are increasingly prosecuting returning foreign terrorist fighters and terrorists not only for terrorist offences, but also for core international crimes.
The Memorandum on Criminal Justice Approaches to the Linkages between Terrorism and Core International Crimes, Sexual and Gender-based Violence Crimes, Human Trafficking, Migrant Smuggling, Slavery and Crimes against Children, endorsed by the GCTF on October 7, 2021, provides non-binding recommendations to GCTF Members on how to address these linkages within their criminal justice system. With increasing opportunities to use information from conflict zones in a rule of law compliant manner, resorting to cumulative charging, and applying a victim-centric approach, the aim of this Memorandum is to hold alleged terrorist accountable for the full range of crimes they have committed, which could lead to passing of high(er) sentences and provide more dignity for victims.
The Memorandum – which has been developed by the ICCT under the auspices of the Working Group of the GCTF – on Criminal Justice and The Rule Of Law contains recommendations aimed at improving the criminal justice approaches to the linkages between terrorism and international crimes. Recommendations are divided into several categories, including the legal framework surrounding these crimes, prosecutorial strategies, collection of evidence from conflict zones, interagency and international cooperation in investigations, and the role, rights and needs of victims and witnesses in the criminal justice system. Further updates will follow regarding the activities ICCT will be undertaking in 2022 dedicated to strengthening the implementation of the recommendations included in the Memorandum and sharing good practices in bringing alleged terrorists to justice.