Former Gambian Interior Minister Ousman Sonko sentenced to 20 years in prison for crimes against humanity

Former Gambian Interior Minister Ousman Sonko sentenced to 20 years in prison for crimes against humanity

May 15. (EUROPA PRESS) –

Former Gambian Interior Minister Ousman Sonko was sentenced this Wednesday to 20 years in prison by the Swiss Federal Criminal Court, accused as he was of crimes against humanity.

Sonko fled to Switzerland in 2016 shortly before former president Yahya Jamé went into exile after his defeat against Adama Barrow in the elections in December of that year, although he was arrested in 2017 after several complaints against him for these crimes in Gambia.

The charge sheet of the accusation, which accompanies the verdict published on the Court’s website, indicates that Sonko “killed, tortured, intentionally raped people and illegally deprived them of their freedom”, from 2000 to 2016, under the dictate of the then President Jamé, acting initially in his capacity as a member of the Gambian Army, then as Inspector General of Police and finally as Minister of the Interior.

Specifically, the accusation accused Sonko of the murder in January 2000 of a soldier involved in a failed coup d’état and of subsequently imprisoning and raping his widow repeatedly until 2005. The woman was tortured during her stay in prison.

The prosecution has also accused Sonko of “having tortured several members of the opposition and illegally depriving them of their freedom” in addition to torturing and murdering an organizer of an opposition demonstration.

Sonko is the second Gambian tried in Europe for crimes in the African country, after the case in Germany against Bai Lowe, a former member of a paramilitary unit known as ‘Junglers’, also created by Jamé. Lowe was sentenced to life in prison in November 2023 for crimes against humanity.

In his last appearance before the verdict, Sonko denied all charges and assured that the use of torture by the Junglers was clearly unacceptable and that the police forces under his control were never involved, reports the NGO Trial International, which has followed the case. The sentence, he remembers, can be appealed.

In recent years, numerous abuses and atrocities committed during the Jamé regime have come to light, within the framework of the work of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC).

The TRRC was created to respond to the demands of the relatives of victims of disappearances and torture, who demand justice once the regime of Jamé has come to an end, who came to power in 1994 after a coup d’état and who is exiled in Equatorial Guinea since January 2017.

Jamé agreed to hand over the position to the current president, Adama Barrow, winner of the presidential elections held in December 2016, although this required the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to act as a mediator and even threaten intervention. military if he did not accept his defeat.

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