Former Interior minister Ousman’s Sonko

The Swiss Federal Court has approved keeping former Gambian interior minister Ousman Sonko, suspected of human rights abuses, in preventive detention until January 25, 2020.

The country’s highest court dismissed Sonko’s appeal against the decision of the Federal Criminal Court made in early September to extend his detention.

Sonko, who sought asylum in Switzerland last year, was arrested in January 2017. He allegedly commanded a special squad known for its brutality against citizens in the west African state.

Trial International, an international justice organisation, has accused Sonko of having personally taken part in what it described as torture between 2006 and 2016.

The former police chief and commander of the Presidential Guard served as interior minister under ousted Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh.

Ongoing investigation

The Attorney General had demanded Sonko’s detention to be extended in order to continue pursuing the investigation against him in the light of new evidence. Additional documents were received, and a delegation visited the Gambia in June 2019 as part of mutual legal assistance.

Currently, the Office of the Attorney General is reviewing a dossier of about a thousand pages. This could lead to further investigations and witness interviews.

In their ruling, the Federal Court judges pointed out that crimes against humanity are punishable by a prison term for a period of at least five years.

Thus the three years Sonko will have spent in pre-trial detention is still less than the minimum sentence that could be imposed.


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