International cooperation leads to Gambian ex-minister’s extension of detention

By Jill Bähring, Research Associate PILPG-NL

Switzerland extends the detention of former Gambian minister of the interior, Ousman Sonko, after securing further evidence for crimes against humanity. Sonko is accused of committing and overseeing torture during his term as interior minister from 2006 to 2016. Gambia now seeks his extradition, according to interior minister Mai Ahmad Fatty.

Ousman Sonko was a righ-ranking Gambian lieutenant as well as interior minister. He was dismissed by Gambia’s former dictator Yahya Jammeh in September 2016, before Jammeh himself was deprived of power last year. Sonko then fled to Sweden before entering Switzerland in November, where he requested asylum. Trial International then triggered his arrest by filing a complaint with the Swiss authorities.

The new Gambian government led by election winner Adama Barrow had provided additional evidence to aid Switzerland in the case against Sonko. Following the submission of seized documents, his detention was extended by three months.

Only days after the press reported Sonko’s extension of detention, Gambia’s new interior minister Mai Ahmad Fatty announced that the country now seeks Sonko’s extradition. The newly elected democratic government intended to question him on cases of torture and enforced disappearance of Gambia’s opposition, such as Solo Sadeng, who was the organising secretary of the United Democratic Party (UDP).

Solo Sadeng was arrested in April 2016, among the prior government of dictator Yahya Jammeh. He was killed during his arrest. His corpse was exhumed in May 2017 and is undergoing examination for further evidence.