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Swiss trial? Former Gambian minister’s detention extended by six months

Crowd cheering peacekeepers in Gambia

People cheered when ousted Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh, under whom Sonko served, went into exile last year

(Keystone)

Switzerland’s highest court has ruled that Ousman Sonko, a former interior minister of Gambia suspected of human rights abuses, will have to remain in Swiss detention for another six months. 

The Federal Supreme Court upheld a request made by the Attorney General’s Office to keep the ex-minister in custody. The request was earlier granted by a court of appeals of the Canton of Bern as Sonko’s detention order was due to expire on January 25. The Attorney General justified the extension on the grounds that new complaints and witnesses need to be heard. 

+Why the Sonko case could be tried in Switzerland

In its judgment, the Federal Court held that Sonko, who is suspected of crimes against humanity, is in a financial position to defend his rights. In a previous ruling, the court had concluded he had not sufficiently clarified his financial situation. 

On Wednesday, the Gambian government said the trial should take place in Switzerland. 

“We wish to respect the integrity of the Swiss process and not interfere in any way, apart from providing assistance to the Swiss authorities,” Gambian Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou told Rundschau, a news programme on Swiss public television SRF. 

He added that the Gambian government was grateful that Switzerland was taking on such a large responsibility and was guaranteeing that the suspect could not hide anywhere. 

Torture allegations

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

Trial International, an international justice organisation, accused Sonko of having personally taken part in what it described as torture between 2006 and 2016. Sonko served under ousted Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh.  

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