Gambia wants former minister to answer charges

Ousman Sonko is believed to be responsible for torturing members of the opposition under the rule of former president Yahya Jammeh SRF

Gambia’s new government is seeking the return of former interior minister Ousman Sonko from Switzerland to answer allegations of human rights abuses.

This content was published on February 23, 2017 - 10:53

Sonko is currently in detention in Switzerland having sought asylum late last year.

In an exclusive interview with Swiss public television, SRF, the new Gambian President Adama Barrow as well as Interior Minister Mai Fatty called for Sonko to be released into Gambian custody.

The West African country is investigating claims of torture and killings under the old regime.

As interior minister, Sonko is accused of commanding a special squad known for its brutality against citizens. The children of the late Gambian democracy activist Solo Sandeng spoke to SRF about their father's death, which they say came at the hands of Sonko and his secret forces known as the "Black Black" or "Junglers".

Sonko fled to Europe last year after being fired from his post by the former president. After failing to find asylum in Sweden, he applied in Switzerland.

He was arrested by the Bern authorities last month after Geneva-based group TRIAL International filed a criminal complaint to the Swiss authorities. On February 6, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office said it had taken over the investigation.

Barrow told SRF that the recent appointment of an internationally respected judge to the post of Chief Justice, showed that Gambia is "committed to democratic principles". "We are making reforms that ensure the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary," he said.

In addition to Gambia’s president and the interior minister, the country’s new foreign minister as well as many private citizens are demanding that Switzerland either return Sonko to Gambia or surrender him to the International Criminal Court at the Hague, according to SRF.

A soldier who witnessed prisoners being brought to execution under Sonko's orders told SRF that “Sonko should face justice here. All of Gambia is demanding it.”

Switzerland's Federal Office of Justice told that it had not been approached by Gambia concerning Sonko's proposed extradition.

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