After it was revealed that Ousman Sonko was in Switzerland, several human rights groups called on the Swiss government to arrest him for his possible role in the torture and extra-judicial killing of the political opponents of Jammeh / Photo: FNI

Switzerland probes ex-Gambian minister and Jammeh’s top aide for crimes against humanity

Switzerland’s Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has announced that it was investigating former Gambian Interior Minister Ousman Sonko for possible crimes against humanity.

Sonko, who is seeking asylum in Switzerland, was a top figure in the repressive regime of ousted president, Yahya Jammeh.

Sonko 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 has 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.

Former President Jammeh waving to his supporters at the Banjul International Airport on Saturday, 21 January before flying into a new life in exile and ending a 22-year despotic rule / Photo: JF-FM

“The OAG takes the view that the elements presented in the request would not rule out a suspicion of crimes against humanity,” the Swiss office said in a statement on Monday.

“Until the end of the investigation period of three months, the OAG will carry out further investigations in particular with a view to establishing whether there are sufficient grounds to establish crimes against humanity.”

Sonko was implicated in the murder of Deyda Hydara by some former regime members. The prominent journalist and publisher is one of the hundreds of Gambians who disappeared 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.

Ken Kamara

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