Former Gambian Interior Minister Ousman Sonko, suspected of crimes against humanity, will remain jailed in Switzerland until at least the end of October. Ousman Sonko’s July appeal to be released on bail was rejected by the Swiss Federal Criminal Court, according to Swiss media reports 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) traveled to The 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 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. For example, he was accused of ordering the torture of opposition members when he was interior minister under Gambia’s former dictator Yahya Jammeh.
In The Gambia, Swiss federal investigators interviewed numerous witnesses. The statements gathered since then further substantiated the Swiss courts’ suspicion against Ousman Sonko.
In short, the Swiss investigators who interviewed witnesses in the Gambia concluded that the alleged war criminal had systematically tortured Gambians. They also concluded that Security units subordinated to Sonko, like “The Junglers,” may have deliberately killed opposition members.
At the end of July, the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland applied for an extension of Sonko’s detention until at least the end of October.
But Yahya Jammeh’s former Minister of Interior filed a petition seeking his release on bail.
The Swiss Sunday newspaper SonntagsBlick reporting a new decision of the Swiss Federal Criminal Court, said Ousman Sonko’s bail request has now been rejected.
It is rare for Switzerland to investigate foreigners who have committed crimes out of Switzerland. However, Ousman Sonko’s case is made possible by the Swiss Attorney General’s use of the universal jurisdiction. It allows serious crimes to be investigated under international law.