Ousman Sonko was the Minister of Interior under the Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh from 2006 to 2016. During this period he is suspected of taking part in acts of torture, including in detention centers.
Dismissed from office in September 2016, Ousman Sonko fled the Gambia for Senegal, then Sweden, where he sought asylum. His application was rejected. He then went to Switzerland where he also applied for asylum.
Alerted of his presence, TRIAL International lodged a criminal complaint with the Bernese prosecuting authorities on 25 January 2017. The authorities ordered his arrest the following day, in accordance with the Convention against Torture and the Swiss Criminal Code.
Following his arrest, the Bernese authorities questioned him and decided to keep him in custody. The charges against Ousman Sonko were requalified as crimes against humanity and the case was transferred to the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland. Two victims of torture have already filed a complaint against him.
On 3 May 2017, the Court of Coercive Measures of the Bern canton decided to extend his detention by three months.
On 19 October 2017, the Swiss Federal Tribunal confirmed the seizure of Ousman Sonko’s assets. They are worth approximately 14’000 USD and should be used to cover the case’s expenses in Switzerland.
On 2 November 2017, the Court of Coercive Measures of the Bern canton extended once again his detention by three months. Ousman Sonko’s detention was extended by six months in January and August 2018, and again in February and September 2019.
In August 2020, the Swiss Federal Court has rejected an appeal concerning a plea for provisional release.
Gambia was under the control of Yahya Jammeh from 1994 to 2017. For more than two decades, all opposition was brutally repressed: torture, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances were widespread.
Ousman Sonko was commander of the Presidential Guard (elite corps), then a member of the Gambian army. He was finally the Inspector General of Police.
After the re-election of Yahya Jammeh in September 2006, Ousman Sonko was appointed Minister of Interior. He held this position until September 2016, when he was dismissed from office and left Gambia.