Probing on former Gambian minister escalates from torture to crimes against humanity

Probing on former Gambian minister escalates from torture to crimes against humanity

Authorities in Europe say they may levy crimes against humanity charges against former Gambian Homeland Security Minister Ousman Sonko, for the tortures, killings and detentions during the country’s 22-year dictatorship.

Sonko was initially being investigated for torture.

He fled the Gambia in September and his asylum has been denied in Sweden and Spain before his arrest in Switzerland. Geneva-based nonprofit Trial International filed a criminal complaint against Sonko, who called himself a ‘disciple’ of ruthless dictator Yahya Jammeh.

Sonko applied for asylum in Switzerland in early November and had been living in an asylum center in the capital Bern before being taken into police custody on Jan. 28.

Trial International said it has gathered valuable information relevant to the criminal proceedings against the former minister who was overseeing the security services and detention centers, many of which were black sites where people were tortured and killed.

Jammeh was defeated in the polls in December and was forced into exile in Equatorial Guinea after regional troops entered the country to oust him.

At least five presidential guard soldiers are being detained by Ecomig forces, including a military general, Bora Colley, who once led a paramilitary hit squad.

Two UN special rapporteurs, who in 2014 gained access to the country for the first time, concluded that “torture is a consistent practice” by authorities and “avoiding arrest is a necessary preoccupation” for ordinary Gambians.

(Reporting and Writing by Sam Phatey; Additional Reporting from Reuters and BBC; Editing by Sainey MK Marenah)

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