Swiss Court Convicts A Former Gambian Minister For Crimes Against Humanity – OpEd


By Lisa Vives

A former minister of the West African nation of The Gambia has been found guilty of multiple crimes against humanity during the brutal regime of President Yahya Jammeh.

The verdict came from the top court of Switzerland whose law recognizes universal jurisdiction over certain serious international crimes no matter where they were committed and regardless of the nationality of the suspects or victims.

The sentencing was monumental for Gambian victims and a major achievement for the European nation to hold accountable those responsible for grave crimes committed in any country.

Swiss investigators travelled to The Gambia and interviewed dozens of victims and witnesses for the trial, which began in January this year.

After human rights organizations presented evidence of atrocities committed against the President’s political opponents, Minister Ousman Sonko was arrested.

Sonko fled to Switzerland in 2016, shortly before Gambian President Yahya Jammeh was forced out of power after refusing to admit he had lost elections. His government was accused of numerous rights abuses.

Balkees Jarrah, associate international justice director at the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, called Sonko’s conviction “a landmark moment for Gambian victims of brutal crimes under Yahya Jammeh’s rule… The verdict should catalyze justice efforts in Gambia and further bolster Swiss prosecutors to continue to pursue international atrocity cases”.

Philip Grant, head of the organization that filed the complaint leading to Sonko’s arrest, said the case sends a “resounding message against impunity”.

“Minister-level perpetrators are now within reach of justice,” the director of Trial International said.

Sonko sentenced to 20 years behind bars

In sentencing Minister Sonko, the court declared: “In its judgement of May 15, we find Ousman Sonko guilty of multiple counts of intentional homicide, multiple counts of torture and false imprisonment, each as a crime against humanity.”

Sonko was sentenced to 20 years behind bars for atrocious killings, torture and rape over a period of 16 years.

Other countries are now bringing cases against former members of Jammeh’s regime.

In October, Germany handed a life sentence to Bai Lowe, a one-time member of a death squad known as “the Junglers” for crimes against humanity.

And in September this year, a court in Colorado will try an alleged former member of the same group.

Reed Brody, an American human rights lawyer who attended the trial, said Sonko’s conviction was a pivotal step toward justice for Jammeh’s victims. “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,” he said.


IDN-InDepthNews offers news analyses and viewpoints on topics that impact the world and its peoples. IDN-InDepthNews serves as the flagship of the International Press Syndicate Group

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