Switzerland Convicts Former Gambian Interior Minister of Crimes Against Humanity

(l-R) Plaintiffs Demba Dem, Fatou Camara, Madi Ceesay, Ramzia Diab, Binta Jamba and an uni
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GENEVA (AP) – Switzerland´s top criminal court has convicted a former interior minister of Gambia for crimes against humanity over the repression by the west African country´s security forces against opponents of its longtime dictator, a legal advocacy group said Wednesday.

Ousman Sonko, Gambia´s interior minister from 2006 to 2016 under then-President Yahya Jammeh, was sentenced to 20 years in prison, TRIAL International said on X, formerly Twitter.

The trial that began in January was seen by advocacy groups as an opportunity to reach a conviction under “universal jurisdiction,” which allows the prosecution of serious crimes committed abroad.

The verdict was read out in Swiss federal criminal court in southern Bellinzona on Wednesday.

Sonko applied for asylum in Switzerland in November 2016 and was arrested two months later.

The Swiss attorney general´s office said the indictment against Sonko, filed a year ago, covered alleged crimes during 16 years under Jammeh, whose rule was marked by arbitrary detention, sexual abuse and extrajudicial killings.

Swiss prosecutors accused Sonko of supporting, participating in and failing to stop attacks against regime opponents in Gambia, a West African country that juts through neighboring Senegal. The alleged crimes included killings, torture, rape and numerous unlawful detentions.

Philip Grant, executive director at TRIAL International, which filed the Swiss case against Sonko before his arrest, said he was the highest-level former official ever to be put on trial in Europe under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

The group said Wednesday’s conviction showed “no one is above the reach of justice.”

Sonko, who joined the Gambian military in 1988, was appointed commander of the State Guard in 2003, a position in which he was responsible for Jammeh´s security, Swiss prosecutors said. He was made inspector general of the Gambian police in 2005.

Sonko was removed as interior minister in September 2016, a few months before the end of Jammeh´s government, and left Gambia to seek asylum in Europe to seek asylum.

Jammeh seized control in a 1994 coup. He lost Gambia´s 2016 presidential election but refused to concede defeat to Adama Barrow, and ultimately fled amid threats of a regional military intervention to force him from power.


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