Gambia has applied to Switzerland for the extradition of former Interior Minister Ousman Sonko. This came as the new government intensifies its efforts in ensuring justice for victims and families of those tortured and even killed during the rule of former President Yahya Jammeh.
“I have authorized and invoked International Criminal Repatriation Cooperation processes regarding those out of the jurisdiction for fugitives like Ousman Sonko etc,” Interior Minister Mai Ahmad Fatty said at the weekend.
Sonko, who is seeking asylum in Switzerland, was a top figure in the repressive Jammeh regime.
He was arrested on 26 January in an asylum centre in Berlin following a case of crimes against humanity filed against him by the human rights organisation TRIAL International.
The Geneva-based NGO had accused him of serious assault, coercion and false imprisonment during his 10-year tenure (2006-2016) as interior minister and head of the police.
“This former Minister of Interior (2006-2016) was head of the police and of detention centres. Could he really have been unaware of the ongoing human rights violations?” TRIAL International said in a statement.
Sonko has been implicated in the murder of Deyda Hydara, a prominent journalist and publisher, by some former regime members. Hydara is one of the hundreds of Gambians who were killed during Jammeh’s 22-year iron-fisted rule.
Analysts say Sonko is an information encyclopaedia on Jammeh’s oppressive regime and rights abuses, “having coordinated and directly participated” in them.
After he was sacked by Jammeh on 16 September 2016, Sonko fled to Senegal and then to Sweden, where his asylum application was rejected. He entered Swiss territory on 10 November 2016, where he sought for asylum and has been living since then.
Meanwhile, the new President Adama Barrow has since vowed to ensure justice and accountability, saying that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission would be established to look into the affairs of the former government, though it would not engage in witch-hunting.