Swiss authorities have confiscated the assets of Ousman Sonko, Jammeh’s longtime interior minister currently facing charges of crimes against humanity in the European nation.
The Swiss have ordered that Sonko’s assets should not be returned to him. He was also the former police chief and elite presidential guard commander in Jammeh’s regime.
The courts in Switzerland have denied Sonko seven bail appeals since his arrest 9 months ago after he fell out of favor with Jammeh and fled to Europe, where he filed asylum.
“On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that his assets have to be confiscated and were never to be returned to him,” Benedict de Moerloose of Trial International said.
“Ousman Sonko has filed seven appeals and he lost every single one of them. He has appealed his detention but the Federal Court has said that there is good suspicion of crimes against humanity is, so he was not to be released.”
Though Sonko has been part of the Jammeh regime for a long time, it remains unclear what assets he has that are usurped by the order.
Assets of his former boss have been seized by Gambian authorities, who are now probing the former ruler’s financial activities, accusing him of squandering billions.
So far, five victims have traveled to Switzerland to file a complaint against Ousman Sonko and advocates for the victims say they are expecting many other witnesses.
Switzerland has a Universal Jurisdiction, which gives it the authority to prosecute cases involving crimes against humanity regardless of where it might be committed around the world.
For now, the Gambia Government has not sought the extradition of Sonko, according to the Justice Department. However, the former powerful minister has been named in the murder of a journalist and suspected coup plotters.
“The case in Switzerland is a powerful sign. It shows that the crimes that were committed in Gambia shocked people thousands of kilometers away. It also sent a powerful message to all other allege perpetrators especially, Yahya Jammeh,” Moerloose said.
Gambians have launched an international campaign, which is supported by local and international NGOs to have Jammeh extradited from his safe haven in Equatorial Guinea.
Jammeh, a former soldier, ruled the small English-speaking West African country from 1994 to January 2017, but now lives in exile in Equatorial Guinea.
His regime is accused by human rights defenders of systematically torturing political opponents and journalists, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances.
(Reporting and Writing by Mustapha Darboe; Additional Writing and Editing by Sam Phatey)