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Momodou



Denmark
11550 Posts

Posted - 18 Jan 2024 :  10:48:28  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote
JAMMEH GAVE ME SHOOT-TO-KILL ORDER
The Standard: JANUARY 18, 2024

By Mustapha K Darboe

with New Narratives


https://standard.gm/jammeh-gave-me-shoot-to-kill-order/

Former Interior Minister Ousman Sonko, currently facing charges of crimes against humanity in Switzerland, yesterday admitted to writing a note in which he claimed to have received orders from ex-president Yahya Jammeh to shoot and kill prodemocracy protesters in April 2016.

Sonko served as police chief under Jammeh from 2005 to 2006. In the latter part of 2006, he was appointed interior minister, a position he held from November 2006 to February 2012 and from May 2012 to September 2016. The reason for his fallout with Jammeh has never been made public.

The Swiss Attorney General’s office, along with 10 plaintiffs from Gambia, is accusing him of torture, murder, false imprisonment, rape, and deprivation of liberty, allegedly perpetrated against Gambians during Jammeh’s 22-year rule


When Swiss prosecutors raided Sonko’s apartment in Switzerland after his arrest in 2017, they found a handwritten note in a suitcase. He had previously denied the existence of the note, but during yesterday’s hearing, his position changed, when he confirmed the note found at his apartment was written by him for his Swiss asylum procedure.

In the note, Sonko claimed to have received an instruction from Jammeh to “shoot and kill the April 14 to 16 demonstrators,” an order he said he declined to carry out, though he continued to serve as interior minister until September that year.

“I prepared [the note] after I was removed from office, and it was to be used for my asylum,” he said. Sonko contested the accuracy of some details in the note.

The note also contained a directive to harass the opposition and deny them protest permits. The note calls into question Sonko’s operational role; throughout the trial, he has maintained that he was not involved in operational matters, like issuing protest permits, which allegedly falls under the function of the police chief.


He also claimed in the note to have received instructions from Jammeh to hand over the arrested protesters to National Intelligence Agency officials but denied this part was carried out.

Torture

At least two alleged torture victims–Fatoumatta Jawara and Fatou Camara–appeared before the Swiss court on Wednesday. Both were involved in a protest in April 2016 led by Sandeng.

Both testified to being tortured at the state central prison, Mile 2, and the National Intelligence Agency complex, and broke down during their testimonies.

Unlike Modou Ngum, Jawara and Camara did not testify to seeing Sonko at the paramilitary or NIA headquarters, where they were allegedly tortured. Sonko denies involvement in the arrest, detention, or torture of people at the NIA.

“We were taken to be beaten mercilessly for hours… We were blindfolded, taken by another man who masked his face to the panel. We were asked questions that I could not answer because I was barely conscious. They brought me back to be tortured. They said I was refusing to answer. All my clothes were torn. I was urinating blood for months,” said Jawara. All the victims said they were not permitted medical attention for several days.

The Swiss prosecutors are trying to prove Sonko’s responsibility for torture through his participation in various investigation panels as inspector general or for ordering or abetting abuse as interior minister.


The hearing continues on January 18 with a cross-examination of Sonko’s testimony.

This was a collaboration with New Narratives as part of the West Africa Justice Reporting Project.

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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Momodou



Denmark
11550 Posts

Posted - 19 Jan 2024 :  14:08:00  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Former Gambian Interior Minister on trial in Switzerland claimed to Get Shoot-to-Kill Orders from ex-Dictator Yahya Jammeh reports Malagen

Switzerland, BELLINZONA –Gambia’s former Interior Minister Ousman Sonko, currently facing charges of crimes against humanity in Switzerland, admitted to writing a note, in which he claimed to have received orders from ex-president Yahya Jammeh to shoot and kill protesters in April 2016.

Sonko served as police chief under Jammeh from 2005 to 2006. In the latter part of 2006, he was appointed interior minister, a position he held from November 2006 to February 2012 and from May 2012 to September 2016. The reason for his fallout with Jammeh has never been made public.

The Swiss Attorney General’s office, along with 10 plaintiffs from Gambia, is accusing Sonko of torture, murder, false imprisonment, rape, and deprivation of liberty, allegedly perpetrated against Gambians during Jammeh’s 22-year rule.

On January 16 and 17, the hearings in the Swiss city of Bellinzona focused on the poor prison conditions when Sonko served as interior minister. Several plaintiffs claimed torture was widespread within the prison system in Banjul. Two serving Gambian prison officers were flown to Bellinzona by Swiss authorities to testify to the poor prison conditions.

A significant part of the hearings also focused on Sonko’s alleged complicity in the torture of people who were protesting electoral reform and arrested in Banjul on April 14 and 16, 2016. One of the protesters, Ebrima Solo Sandeng, died in state custody—an event for which five former officials of the National Intelligence Agency were sentenced to death by a High Court in Banjul, in July 2022.
One alleged victim arrested in April 2016 told the court Sonko was present at the paramilitary headquarters, where they were initially held, and on the panel that investigated and oversaw their torture. Sonko contested all such charges.

Note raises more questions

When Swiss prosecutors raided Sonko’s apartment in Switzerland after his arrest in 2017, they found a handwritten note in a suitcase. He had previously denied the existence of the note, but on Wednesday, his position changed. He confirmed the note found at his apartment was written by him for his Swiss asylum procedure.

At the time of the protest, the ex-president was away in Turkey. It is unclear When and Sonko received the orders from him. In the note, he claimed to have received an instruction from Jammeh to “shoot and kill the April 14 to 16 demonstrators,” an order he said he declined to carry out, though he continued to serve as interior minister until September that year.
“I prepared [the note] after I was removed from office, and it was to be used for my asylum,” he said. Sonko contested the accuracy of some details in the note.
The note also contained a directive to harass the opposition and deny them protest permits. The note calls into question Sonko’s operational role; throughout the trial, he has maintained that he was not involved in operational matters, like issuing protest permits, which allegedly falls under the function of the police chief.
He also claimed in the note to have received instructions from Jammeh to hand over the arrested protesters to National Intelligence Agency officials but denied this part was carried out.

Torture

At least two alleged torture victims–Fatoumatta Jawara and Fatou Camara–appeared before the Swiss court on Wednesday. Both were involved in a protest in April 2016 led by Sandeng.
Both testified to being tortured at the state central prison, Mile 2, and the National Intelligence Agency complex, and broke down during their testimonies.

Unlike Modou Ngum, Jawara and Camara did not testify to seeing Sonko at the paramilitary or NIA headquarters, where they were allegedly tortured. Sonko denies involvement in the arrest, detention, or torture of people at the NIA.
“We were taken to be beaten mercilessly for hours… We were blindfolded, taken by another man who masked his face to the panel. We were asked questions that I could not answer because I was barely conscious. They brought me back to be tortured. They said I was refusing to answer. All my clothes were torn. I was urinating blood for months,” said Jawara. All the victims said they were not permitted medical attention for several days.

The Swiss prosecutors are trying to prove Sonko’s responsibility for torture through his participation in various investigation panels as inspector general or for ordering or abetting abuse as interior minister.
The hearing continues on January 18 with a cross-examination of Sonko’s testimony.
This was a collaboration with New Narratives as part of the West Africa Justice Reporting Project.

You can follow Malagen live blog from the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona where Gambia's former interior minister Ousman Sonko is standing trial for crimes against humanity.



Former Gambian minister on trial for crimes against humanity in Switzerland “shocked” at torture of detainees in state custody

By Mustapha K Darboe with New Narratives

Bellinzona, Switzerland–Gambia’s former Interior Minister, Ousman Sonko, told a Swiss court he was “shocked” to learn of protestors being tortured at the National Intelligence Agency in Banjul, in April 2016, and denied any knowledge or participation. Sonko is currently on trial for alleged crimes against humanity carried out in Gambia during ex-President Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year rule. (Sonko served as Jammeh’s police chief for a year in 2006 and later as interior minister for about ten years.)

Arrested in January 2017, the Swiss Attorney General’s office, along with 10 plaintiffs from Gambia, is accusing Sonko of torture, murder, false imprisonment, rape, and deprivation of liberty, allegedly perpetrated against Gambians during Jammeh’s rule.


On April 14, 2016, at least 14 supporters of the opposition UDP party were allegedly rounded up by members of the police intervention unit. Testimonies before the Swiss federal court and Gambia’s Truth Commission attest to protesters being handed to officials of the National Intelligence Agency, under whose custody Ebrima Solo Sandeng was allegedly tortured to death.

On April 15, rumors had spread of Sandeng’s death, and on April 16, the opposition UDP party confirmed it publicly. Sonko told the Swiss court that he learned of the death of Sandeng on April 16 from his then-police chief Yankuba Sonko.

The arrest and death in custody of Sandeng made news headlines that week. And the leader of the opposition UDP party, Ousainu Darboe, held a press conference at his residence, prior to his arrest, to denounce the alleged torture of party members arrested on April 14.

Sonko, who denied any participation or knowledge in the torture of the protesters, said he only learned “much later” what had occurred, and said the police acted “in accordance with the Gambian law,” with “proportionate use of force” when arresting them.

“When I watched their interrogation video, I could not watch it for the second time… [their torture] was wrong, and it was unacceptable,” said Sonko. Sonko said as minister of interior, he had no control over the NIA or events that took place at their complex.

The Swiss prosecutors are trying to prove Sonko’s responsibility for torture through his participation in various investigation panels as inspector general or for ordering or abetting abuse as interior minister.


Court admits further evidence

On Thursday, Sonko lost a second procedural appeal since the hearing began eight days ago. Earlier this week, prosecutors filed additional archive material with the court from a Gambian newspaper detailing events related to the “illegal execution of nine Mile 2 inmates in 2012.”

The prosecutor argued the material supported their claims that Gambian authorities had carried out a planned and systematic policy of oppression while Sonko held positions as police chief and interior minister. The newspaper clippings show official and public warnings addressed to the population from the Ministry of Interior after the execution of the inmates.

Sonko’s lawyer argued that the filing of the material should be rejected because the execution of the inmates was lawful and could not demonstrate a systematic attack against the civilian population.

The court ruled that the execution of the 9 death row prisoners in 2012 is connected to the crimes against humanity charges in this case. The court admitted the newspaper archives into evidence. The court also admitted a 39-minute video of a June 2016 political rally in Tallinding—when Jammeh threatened to wipe out the Mandinkas, the majority tribe in Gambia.

In the video, Sonko allegedly made threatening statements, saying whoever holds a protest without a permit would regret it. “The emphasis was law and order. It was not meant to deny people permits. There was no evidence to show that after this statement, people were denied permits,” argued Sonko.

Little clarity on Asylum note

When Swiss prosecutors raided Sonko’s apartment in Switzerland after his arrest in 2017, they found a handwritten note in a suitcase. He had previously denied the note's existence, but on Wednesday, his position changed. He confirmed the note found at his apartment was written by him for his Swiss asylum procedure.

Sonko had previously told the court that parts of the note were inaccurate. On Thursday, he declined to answer why he would intentionally write information for his asylum procedure he knew was wrong. Sonko described in his note that he could not stay in Senegal, where he had initially fled, because of its proximity to Gambia.

He said he was followed to the Mbour, a coastal Senegalese settlement, a 4-hour drive from Banjul. He also claimed to have received a directive to harass opposition figures and deny them “police permits” to protest.

He told the court that part of the note, in which he claims Jammeh gave him orders “to shoot and kill the April 14 to 16 demonstrators,” was false.

The prosecutors argued that the note's contents are consistent with testimonies heard before the Swiss court, testimonies before the Truth Commission, and evidence gathered by Swiss investigators. “To me, you are vague. You have not made reference to any concrete thing,” replied Sonko.

More torture

Musa Saidykhan, a former editor-in-chief of The Independent newspaper, told the court he was detained for 21 days between March and April 2006 and allegedly tortured; he said his hands were broken three times.

“They used a torture equipment I never knew Gambia had… They electrocuted me on the back of my neck and my genitals. I felt dizzy and fell down,” said Saidykhan.

“My right hand was broken three times. They sliced my jaw with a bayonet,” he said. Saidykhan was arrested and allegedly tortured with Madi Ceeday, the then-manager of The Independent, who is one of the plaintiffs due to testify against Sonko on Friday. In 2010, the regional Ecowas court awarded Saidykhan $200,000 in damages for torture inflicted in state custody.



This was a collaboration with New Narratives as part of the West Africa Justice Reporting Project.

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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Momodou



Denmark
11550 Posts

Posted - 23 Jan 2024 :  15:12:46  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Sonko’s lawyer cross examines Editor Saidykhan
The Point: Jan 23, 2024
By: Sanna Camara


https://thepoint.gm/africa/gambia/headlines/sonkos-lawyer-cross-examines-editor-saidykhan

The Federal Court of Bellinzona, Switzerland yesterday resumed session after a brief break on Friday, with witness Musa Saidykhan, former editor-in-chief of The Independent newspaper, answering questions from Sonko's lawyer Philip Currat.

Mr Currat had last week Thursday asked for a four-hour preparation break to enable him question witness Saidykhan, which was not granted by the court. On Friday, he applied for absence due to medical reasons, leading to an adjournment, and on Monday, 22nd January, the session continued with his entire cross examination lasting about 30 minutes.

The defence lawyer asked if the arrest of Musa Saidykhan was in fact, not linked to the reporting about former NIA Director Samba Bah, leading to his arrest following the abortive coup of March 2006.


Musa Saidykhan and Madi Ceesay, the editor-in-chief and general manager respectively had spent 22 days in detention where they underwent torture and other forms of human rights violations deemed crimes against humanity by prosecutors in Switzerland.

“The arrest could not have been linked to Samba, who was a private citizen at the time. That cannot be true,” Saidykhan responded.

In March 2006, The Independent newspaper published a list of people arrested by authorities in Banjul following a failed coup plot. Among them was Mr Samba Bah, former director at the NIA. However, Mr Bah walked into the offices of The Independent to clarify that he was not among those arrested. That, the Samba Bah arrested was a member of the Armed Forces instead. The paper ran a front page correction in subsequent edition to Mr Bah’s satisfaction. To the surprise of many, Saidykhan and Ceesay, after the prolonged custody got released without any charges against them.


Witness Saidykhan told the court that the Police and the NIA operated in such a way that victims are treated in circle between the two security bodies. Mr Sonko had denied knowledge of Saidykhan’s arrest or torture, and said it was work of the NIA, who were answerable to the President.

“If he was not aware, why was he there?” Saidykhan asked, in response to Sonko’s lawyer. “Why did he give a statement to us [prior to our release]?”

Mr Saidykhan had earlier testified that while under NIA custody in March 2006, Mr Ousman Sonko had very good knowledge of it; in fact, being the Inspector General of Police at the time. According to him, it was Sonko who addressed the detainees to, “go to your families and forget what happened here. It was a mistake.”

He further told the court that he was arrested by the Police, handed over to the NIA, who also later on returned him to the Police. He was subsequently brought back to the NIA for torture and extra detention. “Police had not released us. They transferred us to the NIA,” he maintained, in response to Sonko’s lawyer that the two were released from Police custody.

Also asked if the NIA had been vested with powers to operate outside the control and command of the Police based on a legal decree, Mr Saidykhan said the decrees were just an excuse for the agency’s actions. But that it operates in close collaboration with the Police and exercises coordination in dealing with supposed opponents or critics of Jammeh.

The Court also asked about The Independent newspaper, its history and founders, to which Saidykhan said two Gambian journalists established it to pursue news journalism through editorial independence. That the publishers faced series of arrests, detentions, kidnappings while the paper’s offices and printing press suffered arson on two separate occasions. These were perpetuated by State security agents whose names were leaked in the National Assembly but no action was effected against them.

That the paper also faced printing challenges as threats from the state prevented private printers from printing its copies and at some point, printing from Senegal was considered as an option, but they had opted for an A4 copier in the office instead.

“It had endured persistent harassment from the State. Family members lived in fear of what might happen to their loved ones who worked for the paper. When I was appointed in 2005 as editor-in-chief, I chose to accept the challenge because of principle and my belief in independent journalism. Someone has to do the crucial job for the people,” he told the court as his lawyers questioned him after the testimony.

Saidykhan said Gambians were not used to vigilante justice, kidnappings, extrajudicial killings or torture prior to Jammeh coming to power. All of those were introduced by Jammeh into the country – a country that was well known for its peace and exemplary democracy in Africa.

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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Momodou



Denmark
11550 Posts

Posted - 25 Jan 2024 :  11:20:17  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Defense lawyer argues prosecution failed to connect Sonko to alleged violations
The Standard: JANUARY 25, 2024

By Mustapha K Darboe with New Narratives

https://standard.gm/defense-lawyer-argues-prosecution-failed-to-connect-sonko-to-alleged-violations/

Bellinzona, Switzerland–Philippe Currat, a Swiss attorney defending Ousman Sonko, Gambia’s former interior minister currently on trial in Switzerland for crimes against humanity, said prosecutors have failed to prove their case. Currat said that after 13 days of hearings, including the testimonies of 11 witnesses, prosecutors have not provided sufficient evidence linking Sonko to the violations he is accused of.

Arrested in January 2017, the Swiss Attorney General’s office, along with 10 plaintiffs from Gambia, is accusing Sonko of torture, murder, false imprisonment, rape, and deprivation of liberty, allegedly perpetrated against Gambians during the 22-year rule of ex-president Yahya Jammeh.


Sonko is the second person to face trial in Switzerland under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which holds that crimes against humanity are committed against all humans regardless of where they were committed. The first person to face trial in Switzerland under universal jurisdiction, Alieu Kosiah of Liberia, was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2022.

Swiss prosecutors have tried to prove Sonko’s responsibility for torture through his alleged participation in various investigation panels as inspector general or for ordering or abetting abuse as interior minister.

In 2006, following a failed coup, dozens of civilians and military personnel, were arrested and detained, during which they were allegedly tortured. Several plaintiffs testified to such events, but Sonko maintained he was not a member of the panel that would have overseen their alleged torture. “He was there on the first day… This was before the people were tortured. Once again, these people were tortured, and they were under the custody of the NIA and the Junglers,” and not Sonko, Currat argued.


Currat argued the prosecution failed to establish Sonko’s role in the alleged torture of the plaintiffs. “What is missing is the link between torture at the NIA [National Intelligence Agency] and Ousman Sonko,” argued Currat.

During his testimony, Sonko, who denied any participation or knowledge in the arrest and torture of protestors at NIA in 2016, said he learned “much later” what had occurred, and said the police acted “in accordance with the Gambian law,” with “proportionate use of force” when arresting them.

Prison condition

Sonko served under Jammeh as police chief for one year and interior minister for 10 years. He was in charge of Gambia’s prisons and internal security matters for half of Jammeh’s presidency—a leader who stands accused of using police and prisons as tools to oppress and neutralise political opponents.

During Gambia’s Truth Commission hearings, several witnesses testified that the Security Wing at the country’s central prison Mile 2—the area of the prison where high-profile prisoners are kept—was used as a torture and arbitrary detention ground for members of Jammeh’s hit-squad, the Junglers. Sonko maintained that the Security Wing had been under the control of the State Guards, elite forces guarding the presidency.


In the second week of the trial, two prison officers, Lamin Sanneh and Abdou Jammeh, testified to torture, and poor food and hygiene conditions at Mile 2 prison.

“Prisons in The Gambia are notoriously substandard, but this is not the result of Gambian state policy, but rather a historical legacy with which we have to come to terms,” said Sonko, while adding that he tripled the budget for food for prisoners during his time as interior minister.

According to the human rights committee of Gambia’s parliament, however, the food ration for a prisoner in the Gambia is currently D5 per person, which is the cost of half a loaf of bread in the country.

Torture

The hearing of witnesses concluded with the testimony of Madi Ceesay, the former general manager of The Independent arrested in March 2006 with the paper’s editor-in-chief Musa Saidykhan. Both were allegedly tortured and detained for 22 days at the premises of the NIA for publishing false information about the alleged involvement of the former deputy director of NIA, Samba Bah, in a foiled coup that year.

The bi-weekly newspaper was “forcibly shut down,” by members of the police intervention unit, according to local and international press freedom organizations. But Sonko claimed that officials obtained a court order to shut down the paper. According to the Gambia Press Union, however, all 15 incidents of media closure in Banjul, under Jammeh, were arbitrary.

Sonko denied any knowledge or involvement in the alleged torture of Musa and Madi. At least two civilians—one of whom was allegedly raped—and one soldier also testified they were tortured in 2006. They blamed Sonko for participating in the investigation panel that ordered or endorsed their ill-treatment.


Sonko also stands accused of participating in the torture and death in state custody of Ebrima Solo Sandeng, the leader of a protest in April 2016. At least five alleged torture victims who participated in protests have since died, and one of them—Nogoi Njie—was expected to testify against Sonko in Switzerland.

Three alleged torture victims—Fatoumatta Jawara, Fatou Camara and Modou Ngum—testified against Sonko. Unlike Ngum, Jawara and Camara did not testify to seeing Sonko at the paramilitary or NIA headquarters, where they were allegedly tortured. The country’s former police chief—Yankuba Sonko, who was Sonko’s direct subordinate—told Swiss investigators that he had reservations regarding how protests on April 14 and 16 were handled but was not explicit about whether he communicated this to Ousman.

Rape as a form of torture

Sonko faces one allegation of rape by Binta Jamba, the widow of Almamo Manneh, a former state guards soldier who served under Sonko in 2000. Jamba said she was abused over a period of five years, from 2000 to 2005.

The prosecutors are trying to prove that Sonko also participated in at least one investigation panel that oversaw the torture and rape of a political detainee in 2006. They argued that rape was used as an instrument of torture by Jammeh’s regime.

Currat, Sonko’s lawyer, told journalists that he did not cross-examine Jamba, because her “contradictory statements” had already discredited her testimony. Several witnesses, including Demba Dem, alleged that Sonko is a “womaniser” who does not respect women.


A former wife of Sonko— with whom he had a son— came to testify to his character.


Though Njemeh Bah did not take the stand, she submitted a one-page statement which was admitted by the court. “I haven’t witnessed or heard a glimpse of any of the undertakings that he’s being accused of,” she stated in her statement. “I stand here as a living testament that for the duration that I knew him, he was a harmless, caring and considerate figure who would go to great lengths to make someone safe and happy.”

The Swiss court must now decide if Sonko’s alleged crimes were part of a broader context of state-sponsored terror visited upon Gambians during Jammeh’s 22-year rule.

The hearings are closed until March 4, when the court will hear the lawyer’s pleading statements.

This was a collaboration with New Narratives as part of the West Africa Justice Reporting Project.

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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Momodou



Denmark
11550 Posts

Posted - 15 May 2024 :  13:17:25  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote
BREAKING: Ousman Sonko, former #Gambian Interior Minister under Yahya Jammeh, has been sentenced by the #Swiss Federal Criminal Court to 20 years in prison for #crimesagainsthumanity.


Source: Trial International

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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Momodou



Denmark
11550 Posts

Posted - 15 May 2024 :  16:23:21  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Gambia: Landmark Swiss Conviction of Ex-Official

Jammeh-Era Interior Minister, Ousman Sonko, Guilty of Crimes Against Humanity


(Geneva, May 15, 2024) – A Swiss court’s conviction of the former Gambian Interior Minister Ousman Sonko for crimes against humanity is monumental for Gambian victims of atrocity crimes during the rule of Yahya Jammeh, Human Rights Watch said today. The verdict is a major achievement for Switzerland’s efforts to hold accountable those responsible for grave crimes committed abroad.

On May 15, 2024, the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona convicted Sonko and sentenced him to 20 years in prison for his role in crimes against humanity relating to torture, illegal detentions, and unlawful killings between 2000 and 2016 during then-President Jammeh’s administration. Sonko is the second person convicted in Europe for international crimes committed in Gambia.

“Ousman Sonko’s conviction is a landmark moment for Gambian victims of brutal crimes under Yahya Jammeh’s rule,” said Balkees Jarrah, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch. “The verdict should catalyze justice efforts in Gambia and further bolster Swiss prosecutors to continue to pursue international atrocity cases.”
Sonko’s trial was possible because Swiss law recognizes universal jurisdiction over certain serious international crimes, allowing for the prosecution of these crimes no matter where they were committed and regardless of the nationality of the suspects or victims. Sonko is the highest-ranking former government official to be convicted on the continent under the principle of universal jurisdiction, Human Rights Watch said.

Swiss authorities arrested Sonko in Bern on January 26, 2017, the day after a Swiss nongovernmental group, TRIAL International, filed a criminal complaint against him. The Swiss Attorney General’s office filed an indictment against Sonko on April 17, 2023. The prosecution, representatives of victims who were formal parties to the proceeding known under Swiss law as private plaintiffs, and the defense presented arguments during the trial, which opened on January 8 and closed on March 7. A number of witnesses, as well as Sonko himself, testified during the proceedings. TRIAL International provided daily highlights of the hearings.

Over the past two decades, the national courts of an increasing number of countries have pursued cases involving war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, torture, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial executions committed abroad. Despite having solid legislation to pursue such cases, judicial officials in Switzerland have been criticized in the past for lagging behind other European counterparts. Nevertheless, over the past few years, Swiss authorities have pursued a number of universal jurisdiction cases involving alleged crimes in Liberia, Algeria, and Syria.

Members of the media, civil society representatives, and the general public were able to attend the trial in person. However, remote access to the proceeding was not available, posing problems for victims and affected communities in Gambia to follow the case. The media reported that the Swiss court did not cover the private plaintiffs’ costs to attend the entire trial, only the days they presented evidence in the courtroom, hindering the ability of plaintiffs to attend key hearings, including the delivery of the verdict. Human Rights Watch research in other situations has shown that inadequate outreach to affected communities can undermine the impact of accountability efforts for serious international crimes.

Another concern was whether Gambians could follow and understand the proceedings, which were conducted in German. Human Rights Watch monitored five court sessions and noted that the interpretation provided from German into English, a language understood by the accused and Gambian communities, was not comprehensive. On the final day of the trial, Sonko expressed his concern that crucial steps of the proceeding, such as the parties’ closing arguments, were not accompanied by English interpretation. The court made the conclusions of the judgment available in English. Swiss authorities should ensure that future universal jurisdiction cases are fully accessible to the accused and affected communities, including by providing adequate interpretation, even if not legally required.

Under Jammeh’s 22-year rule, the government carried out systematic oppression against any real or perceived opponents to maintain political power. The government targeted journalists, human rights defenders, student leaders, religious leaders, political opposition members, judiciary officials, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, and security force personnel, among others. Those apprehended were subjected to torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, and sexual violence. Many of these human rights violations were brought to light during the hearings of Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), which was set up in 2018.

Since Jammeh’s fall, Gambia’s government has brought only two prosecutions for Jammeh-era crimes. In December 2021, the final report of the TRRC found that Jammeh and 69 of his associates committed crimes against humanity, and called for their prosecution. In May 2022, the Gambian government accepted the TRRC’s recommendation for accountability.

On April 22, 2024, in a pivotal move toward justice, the Gambian national assembly approved two bills to further the creation of a Special Prosecutor’s Office and a hybrid court with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to try the most serious crimes.

“Victims of Jammeh-era crimes are entitled to justice and Sonko’s conviction is a step closer to that goal,” Jarrah said. “The verdict underscores the importance of the Gambian government and ECOWAS following through swiftly on establishing an impartial and independent hybrid court to widen accountability’s reach in the country.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on The Gambia, please visit:
https://www.hrw.org/africa/gambia

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on international justice, please visit:
https://www.hrw.org/topic/international-justice

For more TRIAL International reports on the trial, please visit:
https://trialinternational.org/case/ousman-sonko/

For more information, please contact:
In New York, Balkees Jarrah (English, Arabic): +1-202-841-7398 (mobile); or jarrahb@hrw.org. Twitter: @balkeesjarrah
In Brussels, Alice Autin (French, English): +32-471-68-34-52 (mobile); or autina@hrw.org. Twitter: @aliceautin

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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Momodou



Denmark
11550 Posts

Posted - 17 May 2024 :  16:58:00  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote
SONKO TO PAY D20M COMPENSATION TO VICTIMS
The Point: May 17, 2024,
By: Sanna Camara


https://thepoint.gm/africa/gambia/headlines/sonko-to-pay-d20m-compensation-to-victims

The Criminal Division of the Federal Criminal Court of Switzerland has denied all compensation requests made by Ousman Sonko’s lawyer. Instead it imposed obligatory compensation of about 200,000 Swiss Francs, equivalent to D20 million for pain and suffering caused to various plaintiffs that sued him at the court.


The compensation is outlined as follows:

Binta Jamba (widow of Almamo Manneh) CHF 35,000. -- plus 5% interest from 8 July 2007;
Bunja Darboe (Gambia Armed Forces) CHF 8,950. -- plus 5% interest from 20 April 2006;
Ramzia Diab (former parliamentarian) CHF 9,950. -- plus 5% interest from 1 December 2006;
Demba Dem CHF 31,900. -- plus 5% interest from 20 April 2006;
Musa Saidykhan (former newspaper editor) CHF 62,200. -- plus 5% interest from 21 April 2006;
Madi Ceesay (former President, GPU) CHF 6,150. -- plus 5% interest from 21 April 2006;
Fatoumatta Sandeng Darboe (daughter of Solo Sandeng) CHF 35,000. -- plus 5% interest from 15 April 2016;
Community of heirs of Nokoi Njie CHF 9,366.70 plus 5% interest from 17 September 2016;
Fatou Camara (UDP activist) CHF 10,200. -- plus 5% interest from 17 September 2016;
Fatoumatta Jawara (former UDP activist) CHF 11,033.30 plus 5% interest from 17 September 2016.
The court had found Mr Ousman Sonko guilty of multiple counts of intentional homicide as a crime against humanity against Almamo Manneh, Baba Jobe and Ebrima Solo Sandeng; of multiple counts of false imprisonment as a crime against humanity, to the detriment of Bunja Darboe, Ramzia Diab, Demba Dem, Musa Saidykhan and Madi Ceesay.

It also found him guilty of multiple counts of torture as a crime against humanity to the detriment of Bunja Darboe, Ramzia Diab, Demba Dem, Musa Saidykhan, Madi Ceesay, Ebrima Solo Sandeng, Nokoi Njie, Modou, Ngum, Fatou Camara, Fatoumatta Jawara and Modou Touray.

It therefore sentenced Ousman Sonko to a custodial sentence of 20 years, which considers the in-total of 2,667 days already served in custody of the police; the pre-trial and preventive detention before the date of judgement.

Meanwhile, Sabrina Beyeler, Federal Prosecutor in the case of Mr Osman Sonko, said the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) is very satisfied with the judgment rendered by the Federal Criminal Court. She described it as a landmark decision for the victims from The Gambia, who have gone to great lengths to participate in the proceedings and give evidence.

“For the Swiss justice, it (the verdict) symbolises a further milestone in international criminal law,” she said, following the judgment delivered on Wednesday, May 15th, 2024, in Bellinzona: “It shows that these types of crimes are consistently prosecuted and punished and underlines the high level of commitment demonstrated both by the Office of the Attorney General and Switzerland as a country in this field.”

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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Momodou



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Posted - 20 May 2024 :  10:48:28  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote
At the height of his powers, there were very few people in The Gambia with more influence and power than Ousman Sonko. Ousman Sonko and his interior ministry, along with the NIA now called SIS, were at the forefront of the APRC government’s abuse of Gambians. They killed and raped Gambians, and no one ever held them to account.

Ousman Sonko, like many with residual power from Yaya Jammeh, was untouchable. He was Yaya Jammeh’s eyes and ears. Ousman could do whatever he wanted in The Gambia and didn’t have to worry about anyone coming after him. Ousman Sonko never learned that power is transient. That power belongs to man but only temporarily. And many other Gambians, like Ousman Sonko, are yet to learn this bitter lesson. Once in power or close to those in power, we easily forget the transience of power. That is why you still hear worrisome phrases like “it is orders from the top.”

Ousman Sonko, like everyone who has ever been close to Yaya Jammeh, including Jammeh’s four comrades with whom he seized power, to Saul Badgie and Tombong Jatta, would eventually fall out with Yaya Jammeh. Like so many Gambians, blinded by greed, an addiction to government positions, and reliant on marabouts, they all deceived themselves into thinking that they would forever remain in the good books of Jammeh. All who were close to Yaya Jammeh thought they would be an exception to his betrayal. Every single one of them was wrong. Some of those who were once the darlings of Jammeh paid with their lives, we saw others spend time in Mile Two, while others such as Ousman Sonko, escaped into exile. Many Gambians are yet to learn that what matters most to African leaders is power over the people, and not the people themselves! The ones close to Jammeh never learned that they only mattered insofar as they were useful to Jammeh’s stay in power. There never was any loyalty.

When Ousman ran away to Europe, he never learned that globalization makes the world smaller. Like Ousman, many have their visas ready so they too can run away when the power they rely upon today can no longer guarantee their security tomorrow. Like other Gambians hiding in Europe, Ousman thought he could hide behind time. Many of us are yet to learn the bitter lesson that time is no one’s friend and no one can hide behind time forever.

Ousman Sonko’s case should be a lesson for all of us, but more so for those in power today. I’m referring to those with the power to decide the fate of ordinary Gambians. Be you a minister of interior or a security official of any sort. To them, I say, always remember that the power you have today does not belong to you. One fine day, that power will be taken from you. And if you have used that power to abuse people or to steal from the people, your day of reckoning will come someday. To those in power, I say, Yaya Jammeh’s suffering and misery in Equatorial Guinea should be a lesson for you. Just as Yaya never foresaw his downfall or that he would be living all alone in a faraway foreign country, you too may accumulate a lot but when your day of reckoning comes, like Yaya, none of the wealth you stole will be able to save you.

If you are a minister with power and you use that power to abuse people, Ousman Sonko’s predicament should be a lesson for you. The houses you buy in Dakar will feel too hot for you. If you are a frontline security officer and you allow some senior officer or politician to use you to violate and abuse the people, one fine day, you will be left to face the music and whoever gave you the orders to abuse will not be standing there to defend you. Ask the Junglers and all those who mindlessly carried out executive orders or directives.

To the security personnel, you are under no obligation to obey orders from anyone to abuse citizens. If you abuse Gambians, those with power will protect you from accountability today, but once they are no longer in power, you will face the consequences of your actions. Where is Yaya Jammeh to protect Ousman Sonko today? Where is Yaya to protect Yankuba Badgie? Where is Yaya to protect his financial and military Junglers? Where is he to protect his NIA/SIS agents like Alagie Morr? To the security officers, I say, be smart enough to know that not every directive must be obeyed and not every order must be obeyed. The lessons are here for us all to see.

I am not an advocate of Westerners holding Africans accountable for anything. That is why you will not see me celebrating this conviction of Ousman Sonko. But if African leaders refuse to hold perpetrators accountable because it is not politically advantageous to them, I guess it makes it easier for me to swallow Western countries holding the Ousman Sonkos accountable. Do you think Ousman Sonko would have been held accountable if he was living in The Gambia? I doubt it. He probably would have been made minister or nominated to parliament like some of his APRC colleagues! Lessons galore but sadly, no students to learn them.

Source: Mmajiki Sait-Barrow

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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Momodou



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Posted - 20 May 2024 :  20:55:31  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Sonko’s lawyer appeals against conviction
The Point: May 20, 2024,
By: Sanna Camara in Zurich, Switzerland

Phillipe Currat, the defence lawyer for Ousman Sonko in Switzerland has filed an appeal against the conviction of the criminal division of the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona, expressing dissatisfaction with the conclusion of the court.

“On 15 May 2024, the Federal Criminal Court convicted Ousman Sonko of crimes against humanity. The defendant lodged an appeal against the judgment,” he wrote on his wall on the professional social media site, LinkedIn, around 3pm Swiss time on Friday.

Currat said the court has a period of 90 days to notify the parties of its judgment with its fully reasoned judgment and to forward the case to the Court of Appeal. The parties will then have a period of 20 days to file their statement of appeal, i.e., specify which parts of the judgment they are contesting, and what their submission and evidence are.


The court of appeal must then rule on the appeal within 12 months, he wrote.



When we reached out to Sonko’s lawyer by 11pm on Friday to make comments on the post, Mr Currat said, “We just announced the appeal. Now, the Tribunal has 90days for notifying the complete judgment after which we will have 20 days to declare what parts of the judgment is contested. So today, without knowing the complete motivation, it is too early to tell you.”

Meanwhile, Currat also saw the decision of the Federal Court as a small win for Sonko, as it compels the state of Bern to examine Ousman Sonko’s complaint about his prison conditions.

In a news publication yesterday, Ousman Sonko obtained what is described as “a small victory” before the Federal Court, inviting the Bernese justice system to finally examine the complaints of the former Gambian Minister for the Interior against his conditions of detention in the prisons.

Born on the 9th of January 1969 in Kanifing, Sere Kunda of The Gambia), Ousman Sonko, a Gambian national now 55, has currently spent a total of 2670 days in preventive detention in various prisons in Switzerland.

According to the said publication, Ousman Sonko, as early as the summer of 2018, had complained about his conditions of detention, describing it as torturous. He claimed he was locked there for 23 hours a day, alone, in a cell equipped with an opaque window which only opened partially, so that he could see neither daylight nor the outside world.

Sonko also claimed he was denied basic hygiene products, and no access to family except for his lawyer.

The Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona had denied Ousman Sonko all requests for compensation because of these conditions, which his lawyer argued violated his rights.

“Ousman Sonko is not granted neither damages nor compensation for pain and suffering, the verdict read at the Federal Criminal Court on Wednesday, May 15th, 2024, said.

His lawyer, talking to journalists at the Federal Criminal Court premises following the outcome of the trial process that began in January 2024, argued that “Compensation is not just monetary.”

“It could be in the form of a reduced sentence, and I believe my client is entitled to this due to his conditions of imprisonment,” Currat said.

The case of conditions of detention referred to the Federal Court for consideration considers that “the practice of the Bernese authorities prevented the appellant from asserting his rights in terms of establishing the unlawfulness of the conditions of detention”.

“The judges emphasised that the person concerned had a right to have the actions he considers to be contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights subject to an immediate and serious investigation,” the publication stated.


The case has been referred to the Bern courts, which must now ensure that Sonko can exercise his right to have his conditions of detention examined.

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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