Ousman Sonko’s Verdict Opens Today in Switzerland

Ousman Sonko’s Verdict Opens Today in Switzerland

Wed, May 15th 2024

Former Gambian Interior Minister, Ousman Sonko, faces a crucial verdict today as the Federal Criminal Court in Switzerland decides his fate on multiple charges of crimes against humanity.

KEYSTONE/Ti-Press/Pablo Gianinazzi

Today, the Criminal Chamber of the Federal Criminal Court in Switzerland opens the verdict against Ousman Sonko, the former Interior Minister of Gambia. He is accused of multiple, severe crimes against humanity, with Swiss prosecutors requesting a life sentence. In contrast, Sonko seeks an acquittal.

From January 2000 to September 2016, the Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG) alleges that Sonko committed these crimes alongside former President Yahya Jammeh and other Gambian security and prison service leaders. This systematic and widespread attack targeted the civilian population, with Sonko rising rapidly through government ranks during this period.

Appointed as Inspector General of Police in 2005 and later as Minister of the Interior in 2006 by President Jammeh, Sonko is charged with complicity in multiple heinous acts, including killings, torture, rape, and violations of sexual self-determination. Notably, he is accused of raping the widow of a military member numerous times.

Throughout the trial, which spanned approximately a month, Sonko consistently denied responsibility for these crimes. He claimed no authority over the Junglers, the paramilitary unit alleged to have carried out these crimes on orders from him and other leaders. His legal team asserts that he only became aware of these accusations after arriving in Switzerland.

This trial is notably the first instance of a former interior minister being tried in Switzerland for crimes against humanity. The legal proceedings spotlight the Swiss Criminal Code’s application concerning crimes against humanity, which may set a precedent requiring the Federal Supreme Court’s further intervention.

Following his dismissal by Jammeh in September 2016, Sonko sought asylum in Switzerland but was arrested shortly thereafter in January 2017. Currently, he seeks compensation, claiming CHF 200 per day for wrongful detention amounting to CHF 519,000, and an additional CHF 290,000 for alleged unlawful conditions during his detention.


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