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Former Gambia government minister faces trial in Switzerland for crimes against humanity

by Derek Andrews
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TRIAL Internationalinformed on Thursday that Ousman Sonko, a former Gambian Minister of Inside, will likely be tried by the Swiss Federal Criminal Court (FCC) in Bellinzona on January 8, 2024, and the trial will final until January 30. The previous minister will likely be tried for crimes in opposition to humanity dedicated by him underneath ousted Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh.

Sonko, 54, is charged with crimes in opposition to humanity, together with “the killing of a political opponent in 2000; acts of sexual violence between 2000 and 2002, in addition to in 2005; involvement in torture and unlawful detention associated to a coup plot in March 2006; and the homicide of a politician in 2011″ dedicated underneath Jammeh’s reign. 9 Gambian plaintiffs will journey to Switzerland for the trial as a result of the tenth handed away in October 2023.

In 2016, Gambia conducted its historic election that resulted within the victory of Adama Barrow, the present president of Gambia. It ousted its long-time dictator, Jammeh, who had been ruling Gambia since 1994. Jammeh, a lieutenant of the Gambian armed forces, led a coup in 1994 that deposed Dawda Jawara, the then-President of Gambia. In 1996, after a two-year transitional interval, he was elected president of the nation. The interval witnessed systematic and widespread human rights violations as journalists and political figures have been arbitrarily arrested, killed, and forcefully disappeared; folks have been allegedly tortured, and sexual violence passed off at a rampant scale. A Fact, Reconciliation and Reparations Fee (TRCC) was fashioned within the aftermath of the election in 2017 to create a file of human rights abuses that have been dedicated throughout Jammeh’s rule.

Sonko was appointed because the Minister of Inside in 2006. After the 2016 election, Sonko stepped down as a minister. He fled to Senegal and later to Sweden, whereby his asylum request was rejected. He allegedly entered Switzerland in 2016 requesting asylum. After being tipped about his presence, TRIAL Worldwide lodged expenses in opposition to the accused on January 27, 2017, a day after his arrest in Bern, Switzerland. After six years of investigation, the Workplace of the Lawyer Basic (OAG) filed an indictment earlier than the FCC of Switzerland, accusing Sonko of acts encompassing torture, kidnapping, sexual violence and killings. This could be the second time for the FCC to rule on the premise of common jurisdiction, the primary time being the conviction of Liberian Insurgent Commander Alieu Kosiah in 2021.

Switzerland can conduct the trials because it recognizes the precept of common jurisdiction. This precept permits the state to prosecute the perpetrators of worldwide crimes of their nation courts no matter the place the crimes have been dedicated and the accused’s nationality or victims. Sweden has universal jurisdiction over severe worldwide crimes listed underneath the Common Crimes Act, which contains the Rome Statute of 2002. Moreover, Sweden employs common jurisdiction for crimes with a minimal sentence of 4 years underneath theSwedish Criminal Code. Sonko would turn out to be the primary highest-ranking official to be tried in Europe underneath common jurisdiction, mentioned Leslie Haskell, President of TRIAL Worldwide.

The proceedings will happen overtly in German, and interpretation is not going to be offered. TRIAL Worldwide expressed its “remorse” over the choice as it will hinder the flexibility of individuals worldwide, particularly the Gambian neighborhood, to grasp the continued proceedings.

In November 2023, a courtroom in Germany sentenced Bai Lowe, a former member of the Gambian paramilitary unit generally known as the “Junglers,” to life imprisonment for the homicide of journalist Deyda Hydara in 2004 and former soldier Dawda Nyassi in 2006, in addition to the tried homicide of lawyer Ousman Sillah in 2003 which constituted crimes in opposition to humanity. Germany additionally carried out the trials based mostly on the precept of common jurisdiction.

Source / Picture: jurist.org

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