The punishment for IS returnee Jennifer W., who is said to have watched the death of an enslaved girl in Iraq, must be renegotiated. The Higher Regional Court (OLG) Munich assumed a less serious case in its judgment, but made legal errors, said the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) in Karlsruhe. W. was convicted in Munich in October 2021, among other things, of crimes against humanity through enslavement resulting in death (Az. 3 StR 246/22).

The woman, who comes from Lower Saxony, traveled to Syria in 2014 at the age of 23, to the dominion of the jihadist militia Islamic State (IS). There she married an IS fighter who had recently bought a Yazidi woman and her five-year-old daughter as slaves.

W. moved to Iraq with her husband. The enslaved Jesidin had to do household chores for the couple. As the Higher Regional Court found, the man often abused her – partly also after complaints from W. In August 2015, he tied the little girl to a window grille in the yard in the blazing sun. The child died.

According to the Munich verdict, W. did not intervene, although she recognized the danger to life for the five-year-old. When she accepted the death of the girl, she could no longer be saved. The Higher Regional Court imposed a nine-year prison sentence on W. for two crimes against humanity through enslavement, one of which resulted in death, and for aiding and abetting an attempted murder through omission and other acts.

In addition, he was sentenced to two and a half years for membership in a terrorist organization abroad. Both were combined into a total sentence of ten years. Another Senate in Munich must now renegotiate and decide on the individual sentence of nine years and thus also on the overall sentence.

The appeal by the Attorney General was successful. As the presiding judge Jürgen Schäfer said in Karlsruhe, the acceptance of a less serious case met “serious legal concerns”. The BGH doubted that the Munich court had taken all the circumstances into account.

For example, W.’s motives and goals were not discussed as potentially aggravating the sentence. “It makes sense to rate them as inhuman,” said Schäfer. Among other things, he pointed out that W. had approved the goal of the IS to destroy the religious group of the Yazidis.

Schäfer also reported the cruel detail that after the child’s death, W. forced the mother to stop crying at gunpoint. She disregarded the woman’s “essential emotional needs”.

It cannot be ruled out that the Higher Regional Court would not have seen a less serious case without the legal defects, so that a higher penalty should have been imposed, he said. W. himself had also appealed to the BGH with an appeal. However, this was rejected on Thursday. Her husband has since been sentenced to life imprisonment.