Former Gambian Interior Minister Ousman Sonko, suspected of crimes against humanity, is to stay in a Swiss jail until at least the end of October, after his appeal was rejected by the Federal Criminal Court, media reports said on Sunday.
The court decision was based on a risk that he might flee if freed, and on a likelihood of charges being strengthened, according to Swiss news agency Keystone-SDA, which obtained a copy of the September 1 ruling.
This confirms a report in the SonntagsBlick newspaper, which also said Swiss investigators from the Federal Office of Police and Office of the Attorney General (OAG) travelled to Gambia at the end of June. A spokesman for the OAG told Keystone-SDA that a team had indeed been to the West African country “several times during the course of the procedures to gather evidence in the framework of mutual judicial cooperation, notably to question witnesses”.
SonntagsBlick writes that witnesses have provided more incriminating evidence against Sonko. He is accused of ordering the torture of opposition members when he was interior minister under Gambia’s former dictator Yahya Jammeh.
Sonko was arrested in a Swiss asylum centre in January 2017 and has been in jail ever since. This preventive detention has to be confirmed periodically by a court, as investigations continue. The case was referred to Swiss authorities by Geneva-based NGO TRIAL International.
Sonko could be the second person brought to trial in Switzerland for international crimes after Liberian Alieu Kosiah, who was sentenced to 20 years in jail for war crimes in June this year. Under the principle of “universal jurisdiction”, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity can be tried even if the accused is not a national and the crimes were committed in another country.