Swiss Court Convicts Sonko of Gambia for Crimes Against Humanity

Switzerland’s top criminal court on Wednesday convicted a former interior minister of Gambia for crimes against humanity over his role in repression committed by the West African country’s security forces under its longtime dictator, a legal advocacy group said.
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 the social media platform X, formerly Twitter.
The trial, which began in January, was seen by advocacy groups as an opportunity to reach a conviction under “universal jurisdiction,” which allows for the prosecution of serious crimes committed abroad.
The verdict was read out in Swiss federal criminal court in the southern town of Bellinzona on Wednesday. Sonko, who was in the courtroom, offered little reaction when a translation of the verdict was read out in English, said TRIAL International’s legal adviser Benoit Meystre, who also attended the proceedings.
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.
Sonko was accused of supporting, participating in and failing to stop attacks against opponents in Gambia, an English-speaking West African country that is surrounded by neighboring Senegal. The crimes included killings, torture, rape and numerous unlawful detentions, prosecutors said.
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.

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