new criminal complaints filed


ongoing cases
before prosecuting authorities


field missions


annual budget (CHF)

High-profile cases have brought TRIAL International’s Criminal Law Division unprecedented attention. Proceedings against a former Gambian Minister and the ex-Vice President of Syria proved that justice is not limited by time or space.

Pushing the authorities to uphold their obligations


Justice for Gambia

In January, TRIAL International was alerted of the presence in Switzerland of Ousman Sonko. As the right-hand man of Gambia’s fallen dictator Yahya Jammeh, Sonko is suspected of taking part in acts of torture, including in detention centers. Invoking the principle of universal jurisdiction, TRIAL International filed a criminal complaint, after which Sonko was promptly arrested by the Swiss authorities. He has since been held in custody and an investigation for crimes against humanity is ongoing.

Torture victims speak up in Sonko case

The Sonko case profiled TRIAL International as one of the key players in Gambia’s transitional justice process. As such, it was invited to join the international movement to bring to justice the former president himself. The campaign, dubbed “Jammeh2Justice”, is led by Gambian activists and impunity expert Reed Brody.

Bringing “Jammeh2Justice”  

Will Rifaat Al-Assad slip through the net

2017 saw the unveiling of criminal proceedings in Switzerland against Rifaat Al-Assad – the uncle of the current Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and former vice-president of Syria. A complaint for war crimes in the 1980s, notably the massacre of civilians in Hama, was filed in strict confidentiality four years ago.

Unfortunately, the Swiss prosecuting authorities have been reluctant to actively investigate. TRIAL International has documented the alleged crimes extensively, hoping that the significant evidence and testimonies would prompt the authorities into action. That was not the case and, in September, the case was outed by a victim accusing Switzerland of denying him justice.

Syria: 1980s infamous slaughters remain unpunished

Fighting impunity in a borderless world

Both the Sonko and the Al-Assad cases are based on the principle of universal jurisdiction, under which any State may prosecute alleged authors of the gravest crime. TRIAL International seeks to promote this ground-breaking tool not only through litigation, but also by developing its understanding among legal and political actors.

Victims of international crimes are universal victims

The Universal Jurisdiction Annual Review (UJAR), now in its fourth edition, has gained momentum over the years. Co-signed with four other NGOs, it has become an anticipated yearly landmark among legal practitioners. Analyzing hurdles and good practice through a selection of cases, the UJAR is an accessible read to anyone – with or without a legal background – wishing to understand universal jurisdiction.

Make way for Justice #4

TRIAL International’s unique role

  • It has secured the arrest of and investigation against a former Minister in Switzerland.
  • It is part of a global campaign to bring a former dictator to justice.
  • It is one of the only organizations to combine investigative skills and judicial expertise in universal jurisdiction cases.