The detention of Gambia’s former dictator’s trusted police minister has been extended for three month’s by Swiss authorities amid investigations into allegations that he committed human rights abuses.
Ousman Sonko, who also served as the commander of Jammeh’s elite presidential guard and the police chief is being investigated by the Switzerland’s Attorney General after prosecutors say the former minister, did in fact, commit crimes against humanity.
A court in Berne ordered that he remains behind bars as the probe continues.
“We welcome this decision which shows the authorities take the allegations against Mr. Sonko seriously,” Trial International’s director Philip Grant said. “We hope the investigation can shed light on some of the abuses perpetuated by Jammeh’s regime.”
Sonko has been in pre-trial custody since January after the Geneva-based legal group Trial International filed a criminal complaint against him. The group accused Sonko of having personally taken part in what it described as torture, Reuters reported.
Sonko fled to Europe after falling out of favor with Jammeh, just months before the election in which Jammeh was defeated by opposition contender, Adama Barrow.
He first went to Spain before applying for asylum in Sweden. Swedish authorities rejected his application and had him return to Spain.
He then proceeded to Switzerland in November, a month before Jammeh’s defeat and applied for asylum. He was living in an asylum center before he was taken into police custody on January 28, just at the time a political standoff ended in his native country.
Trial International is urging victims and their families to testify and present evidence. Authorities in Switzerland had difficulties with witnesses coming forward and a judge had threatened to release Mr. Sonko last month.
The government of President Yahya Jammeh frequently committed serious human rights violations including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, killing and torture against those who voiced opposition to his regime.
The repression and abuses created a climate of fear within Gambia, generating increased attention from the international community.
The police, which had brutally crackdown on opposition protests killing at least three people so far and the inhuman detention centers were many were tortured and killed were under Sonko’s command.