Former Gambian Minister Ousman Sonko Receives 20-Year Prison

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Written By Vikas Jangid

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Ousman Sonko Receives 20-Year Prison

A Swiss court has made history by sentencing former Gambian minister Ousman Sonko to 20 years in prison for crimes against humanity.

Sonko, who fled to Switzerland in 2016 following the ousting of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh amidst allegations of human rights abuses, faced charges of intentional homicide, torture, and false imprisonment.

Source: Twitter/BBC News

Notably, he was acquitted of rape charges. Sonko's conviction marks a milestone as it's the first time in Europe that a high-ranking government official has been prosecuted under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

Significance of the Verdict: Accountability for Ministerial-Level Atrocities

Philip Grant, the head of the organization that initiated the complaint leading to Sonko's arrest, highlights the significance of this case.

Grant emphasizes that the verdict sends a strong message against impunity, holding ministerial-level perpetrators accountable for their actions.

Switzerland's utilization of universal jurisdiction to prosecute Sonko underscores the global commitment to addressing human rights abuses regardless of where they occur.

Trial Proceedings: Swiss Investigation and Collaboration with Gambian Witnesses

Swiss investigators conducted a thorough examination, including extensive interviews with alleged victims and witnesses in The Gambia.

This collaborative effort between Swiss authorities and witnesses from The Gambia demonstrates the international cooperation required to pursue justice for human rights violations.

The trial, which began in January, signifies a concerted effort to hold perpetrators accountable for their roles in atrocities committed during Jammeh's presidency.

Sonko’s Role in Jammeh’s Regime and Flight to Switzerland

As a close associate of Yahya Jammeh, Sonko served as interior minister and oversaw security operations, including the management of the notorious paramilitary unit known as "the Junglers."

His flight to Switzerland and subsequent arrest in 2017 marked a turning point in his legal battle. While Sonko maintained his innocence throughout the trial, the evidence presented against him led to his conviction.

Global Efforts Against Impunity: Legal Actions Beyond Switzerland

Sonko's conviction in Switzerland is part of a broader effort to pursue justice for crimes committed during Jammeh's regime.

In Germany, former "Junglers" member Bai Lowe received a life sentence for crimes against humanity, while legal action is underway in the United States against another alleged member of the paramilitary group.

Despite The Gambia's establishment of transitional justice mechanisms, criticisms persist regarding the slow progress in addressing past abuses.


The sentencing of Ousman Sonko marks a significant step in holding accountable those responsible for human rights abuses, even at the highest levels of government.

As nations collaborate and utilize legal mechanisms such as universal jurisdiction, perpetrators of atrocities are increasingly finding themselves facing justice, irrespective of borders.

The verdict in Sonko's trial underscores the collective commitment to upholding human rights and combating impunity worldwide.

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