Swiss Court Convicts Former Gambian Minister of Atrocities

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A Swiss court has rendered a guilty verdict in the trial of former Gambian Interior Minister Ousman Sonko, who faced accusations of numerous crimes against humanity spanning from 2000 to 2016.

On Wednesday, the Federal Criminal Court of Switzerland declared former Gambian Interior Minister Ousman Sonko guilty of crimes against humanity spanning from 2000 to 2016, during his tenure in various authoritative roles. Trial International, communicating via the messaging platform X, previously known as Twitter, announced that Sonko received a 20-year prison sentence.

Sonko is the highest-ranking official ever to face trial in Europe under universal jurisdiction, which permits the prosecution of the most severe crimes regardless of where they occurred. Throughout the trial, Sonko consistently denied all charges against him. It's important to note that the ruling is subject to appeal.

Sonko, aged 55, faced accusations from Swiss prosecutors of committing multiple grave crimes, including murder, torture, and rape, spanning from 2000 to 2016 during the regime of former Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh.

According to reports, Sonko was alleged to have committed these crimes initially within the military, then as inspector general of the police, and later as the interior minister from 2006 to 2016. War crimes prosecutor Reed Brody, present at the trial, stated that Sonko was found guilty of intentional homicide, torture, and false imprisonment, but acquitted of the charge of rape.

Brody remarked, "The long arm of the law is catching up with Yahya Jammeh's accomplices all around the world, and hopefully will soon catch up with Jammeh himself."

During the trial, several civil parties provided testimony. Sonko's defense argued against trying him for crimes against humanity, contending that the alleged offenses were isolated acts for which he bore no responsibility.

Sonko's lawyers argued that the offenses were actually perpetrated by the National Intelligence Agency and the Junglers paramilitary group, neither of which Sonko had authority or control over.

Sonko, who was dismissed from Gambia's government in 2016, has been held in Swiss custody since his arrest in January 2017, following his asylum application.

Yahya Jammeh governed Gambia authoritatively from 1994 to 2016. He fled into exile in Equatorial Guinea in January 2017.