Ousman Sonko

17.04.2023 ( Last modified: 12.07.2023 )
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Ongoing proceedings against former Gambian minister of interior for alleged international crimes under Yahya Jammeh’s regime

Type of jurisdiction

Universal jurisdiction


Ousman Sonko, former State Guard commander, former inspector general of the police (2005 to 2006) and former minister of the interior (2006 to 2016)

Country of residence of suspect



Crimes against humanity allegedly committed between 2000 and 2016.

Current status

Indicted; detained


The Gambia was under the control of President Jammeh from 1994 to 2016. For more than two decades, all opposition was repressed: torture, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances were widespread.

After Jammeh’s re-election in September 2006, Sonko was appointed minister of interior. He held this position until September 2016, when he was dismissed from office and left the Gambia.

In its final report published late 2021, the Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), recommended the prosecution of Sonko for the role he allegedly played in killings that took place in 2000, 2005 (west African migrants), 2006 and 2012 and acts of torture committed in 2006 and 2016. The TRRC also recommended his prosecution for acts of sexual violence allegedly committed in 2005 and 2015.

In 2022, the Gambian government released a white paper where it accepted almost all the TRRC conclusions and recommendations, including those regarding Ousman Sonko.


Alerted of Sonko’s presence on Swiss territory, TRIAL International lodged a criminal complaint before the prosecuting authorities in Bern on 25 January 2017. The former Gambian minister was arrested the following day at the immigration center of Lyss (canton of Bern), where he had applied for asylum.

On 9 October 2017, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court confirmed the seizure of Sonko’s assets, worth approximately USD 15’000. His detention has been extended several times since 2017 to allow the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to conduct the investigation.

Between 2017 and 2023, ten Gambian victims filed additional complaints. All of them, along with dozens of witnesses, including the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, were heard by the OAG. The Swiss authorities travelled on different occasions to the Gambia during the course of their investigation to gather evidence in the framework of mutual judicial cooperation, including to hear witnesses.

Ousman Sonko was heard numerous times by the OAG during the investigation, the last time in September 2022.


In April, the OAG filed its indictment against Ousman Sonko for crimes against humanity committed in The Gambia, referring the case to the FCC. Sonko remains in pre-trial detention until trial.

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