The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Former Interior Minister Sonko criticizes Switzerland in closing remarks

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland has demanded a life sentence for the Gambian former Minister of the Interior Ousman Sonko before the Federal Criminal Court, while he is demanding a full acquittal. Various questions have never arisen before and will ultimately have to be decided by the Federal Supreme Court.

The 55-year-old Sonko remained true to his line in his closing statement to the criminal chamber of the Federal Criminal Court. He criticized the fact that he had been in custody for seven years - under humiliating conditions. He criticized the fact that the plea of the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) had not been translated. And he emphasized that he was not responsible for the torture. He would never have tolerated such a thing.

The country of Gambia, as described by the BA and victims' representatives in the course of the trial before the criminal chamber, which lasted several weeks, differs from the one depicted by Sonko and his defense lawyer.

According to the lawyer, there was no systematic and widespread attack against the civilian population. He therefore considers the application of Article 264a of the Criminal Code for crimes against humanity to be inadmissible for the accused acts. Furthermore, he is of the opinion that the article only applies to acts committed after its entry into force in 2011.

Kosiah judgment

The article in question and the question of its application and statute of limitations already arose in the case of the Liberian Alieu Kosiah, who was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment for crimes against humanity in the second instance last year.

The Appeals Chamber of the Federal Criminal Court is of the opinion that the provision introduced into Swiss law in 2011 is applicable. This is the case even if the acts date back to the early 1990s, as the charged intentional homicides were not time-barred.

This was the first application of this offense in a judgment in Switzerland. Sonko's defense lawyer is now also representing Kosiah. He has appealed the ruling to the Federal Supreme Court. The court will decide on this issue in the last instance.

Individual offenses or systematic

The defense attorney considers the crimes in the period from 2000 to 2016, which were divided into five thematic blocks by the BA, to be unrelated individual crimes, which would therefore not fall under the concept of systematic attack.

And he described the powers of his client, who made a steep career during the accused period and rose steadily, in such a way that he could not be considered an accomplice to the killings, tortures, rapes and deprivations of liberty.

This is in contrast to how the BA and the victims' lawyers described the situation in The Gambia at the time. In addition to the victims' statements, they relied on further interviews, statements made by people before the Gambian Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), media publications and reports by international organizations such as the United Nations.

High compensation claim

Under ex-president Yahya Jammeh, the Gambia had a repressive regime that used violence against members of the opposition and critical journalists. A system in which the police, secret service, prisons and the Junglers paramilitary unit worked together to maintain the apparatus of power and intimidate the population.

Sonko's and the defense lawyer's explanations as to why he did not have the appropriate powers in the accused cases to be considered an accomplice in a collective of perpetrators often seemed unwieldy. For example, they referred to the officially recorded powers of the respective functions that Sonko held.

Another topic was the sentencing of a young man in Germany to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity. The man was found guilty of killing three people between 2003 and 2006.

Sonko is demanding compensation of CHF 200 per day for the time he has spent in custody since January 25, 2017 - a total of CHF 519,000. He is also seeking compensation of around CHF 290,000 for the days spent in detention under allegedly unlawful conditions. (Case SK. 2023.23)


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