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Former Gambian Minister Convicted In Swiss Court

IN a landmark verdict announced Wednesday, a Swiss Federal Criminal Court (FCC) convicted Ousman Sonko, a former Gambian minister, of egregious crimes against humanity dating back to the regime of Yahya Jammeh. Sonko was found guilty on multiple counts, including the killing of a perceived political opponent in 2000, torture, illegal detention related to a coup plot in 2006, and the killing of a politician in 2011. Additionally, acts of torture and deprivation of liberty against peaceful demonstrators in 2016 were among the charges.

Ramzia Diab Ghanim, one of the plaintiffs in the case, expressed mixed emotions about the verdict, stating, ‘This decision gives us the closure we had been waiting for long and shows that there is no hiding place for anyone who perpetrated international crimes in The Gambia, not even the highest-level individuals.’ However, she voiced disappointment that sexual violence charges were not fully recognised, emphasising the need for justice for all victims.

While the historic conviction signifies a significant step towards accountability, the court chose to abandon some sexual offense charges, citing their isolation from the broader context of crimes against humanity. TRIAL International, the organisation supporting the plaintiffs, expressed regret over this decision and affirmed its commitment to continuing support should the plaintiffs appeal.


The trial, made possible by Swiss law’s recognition of universal jurisdiction, saw Sonko arrested in Switzerland in 2017 after a criminal denunciation by TRIAL International. The six-year investigation culminated in Sonko’s indictment in April 2023, followed by a trial before the FCC in January and March 2024.

Philip Grant, Director of TRIAL International, hailed the verdict as a historic milestone in the fight against impunity, emphasising its significance in bringing justice to victims and sending a powerful message to perpetrators worldwide.

Sonko’s conviction represents another stride towards justice for victims of Jammeh’s oppressive regime, following previous trials based on universal jurisdiction principles. The transitional justice process initiated in 2017 aims to address the atrocities committed during Jammeh’s rule, with legislative steps taken by the Gambian National Assembly signalling progress towards domestic prosecutions.

As the Gambia continues its journey towards accountability, Sonko’s conviction serves as a critical juncture in the pursuit of justice for all victims of human rights violations during Jammeh’s dictatorship.

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