Ahead of the trial of Ousman Sonko, former Interior Minister of Gambia, before the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona, Switzerland, for crimes against humanity allegedly committed between 2000 and 2016 under former President Yahya Jammeh, Michèle Eken, Amnesty International’s researcher at Amnesty International’s West and Central Africa office, said:
“Sonko served as Interior Minister for Gambia at a time when atrocious crimes, including torture, extrajudicial killings, and sexual violence were committed. Survivors and relatives of victims who suffered brutal crimes under Jammeh’s regime are fighting for accountability. Sonko must face justice.
“Universal jurisdiction is an essential tool for fighting impunity. States should prosecute or extradite perpetrators of crimes under international law — they should have nowhere to hide. Amnesty International welcomes Switzerland’s efforts in prosecuting Sonko and encourages the Federal Criminal Court to strengthen the ability of victims to follow the proceedings and, where relevant, participate in the trial.
“The Gambian government must also speed up the process of investigating and prosecuting those identified as potential perpetrators of human rights violations by the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC). Victims and their relatives have a right to justice, truth, and reparations.”
Ousman Sonko was Gambia’s Interior Minister from 2006 to 2016. On 26 January 2017, he was arrested in Switzerland under the principle of universal jurisdiction and stands accused of committing crimes against humanity. The first day of trial is on 8 January 2023.
In November 2021, the TRRC issued recommendations to the Gambian government, such as the prosecution of 70 officials, including Sonko. In May 2023, the government published an implementation plan, which includes the creation of a hybrid court.
Sonko fled the country in 2016, shortly before former President Jammeh lost power. He was arrested after non-governmental organisations presented evidence of his alleged involvement in killings, rape and torture.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Amnesty International.