Monday, August 7, 2017

Gambia will not seek extradition of Ousman Sonko from Switzerland, says Justice Minister

Responding to journalists questions regarding the fate of former Interior Minister, Ousman Sonko, one of Yaya Jammeh's most powerful and trusted member of his ousted regime, Gambia's current Justice Minister revealed that the Barrow administration has no desire to pursue the extradition route.  

Instead, his government will cooperate with the Swiss authorities in furtherance of the legal charges that the notorious Ousman Sonko who referred himself as "Yaya Jammeh's disciple" or "Baye Faal" may likely face in Switzerland where he was intending to seek asylum only to be arrested for alleged human rights violations during the 22-year dictatorship of Jammeh.

Ousman Sonko was arrested following a formal complaint by Trial International, a Geneva-based non-governmental organization. that alleged that as Interior Minister and a senior member of Jammeh's security establishment,  he took part in the arrest, torture, rape and disappearances of citizens.

In March, the Gambian Interior Minister announced government's intention to seek his extradition to The Gambia to face trial.  The change in strategy may have been necessitated by the overwhelming demand on the Gambian judiciary - the aftereffect of the defeat of 22-year dictatorship -  that is understaffed and thus facing capacity issues that its shares with the rest of the civil service.  I

It, therefore, makes sense to let the Swiss authorities have a first crack at the case.  If Ousman Sonko is found guilty and sentenced to a prison term, he's expected to serve it in a Swiss prison before being deported to his native Gambia.  However, in the event he's found innocent - an unlikely outcome given the overwhelming evidence against him -  it is unclear what would happen.  He could be deported to The Gambia, returned to Spain to face deportation hearings as his initial port of entry into the EU.  We will continue to monitor developments.


Correction:  We may have implied in our previous reporting on the Ousman Sonko's case that there was no extradition treaty between Gambia and Switzerland.  If we did imply it, we'd like to correct ourselves.  There is indeed a treaty between the two countries.  Our sources in Switzerland have confirmed it.