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News by Fred Alan Medforth
Friday, January 27, 2017
Gambian Interior Minister Turned Asylum Seeker May Face Criminal Proceedings in Europe
Ex-Gambian Interior Minister Ousman Sonko, who migrated to Switzerland as an asylum seeker, will be investigated and may face criminal charges for his past actions in Gambia.
The Bern General Prosecutor’s Office announced Thursday evening that a criminal case against the former Gambian Interior Minister would be opened and an investigation would begin. Mr. Sonko arrived in Switzerland to claim asylum in November 2016 and has been living in asylum homes since then, Neue Zürcher Zeitungreports.
Sonko is suspected of having committed crimes against humanity while he was Interior Minister in Gambia from November 2006 to September 2016. He is noted as being one of the main functionaries of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh. President Jammeh was voted out of office in December 2016 but has refused to relinquish power until intense diplomatic pressure forced him out last weekend.
Now age 48, Sonko joined the Gambian army at the age of 19 and worked his way up the ranks until he became a commander in the President’s personal army unit. The position allowed Sonko to form a relationship with the President who promoted him to the position of president of the police in 2005 and then Interior Minister in 2006.
According to reports, Sonko is said to be a brutal and sadistic man. Sonko oversaw the systematic repression of government critics, journalists, and homosexuals by the country’s secret police.
Human rights organisations say there were at least 150 cases of the secret services kidnapping government critics, many of which ended up in prison, were tortured, killed, or simply disappeared.
Swiss authorities started the investigation into Sonko after receiving information from the NGO Trial International on Wednesday. A spokesman for Trial International said that there was a large amount of evidence of torture and killing by police and that it was unlikely Sonko had no knowledge of it.
The case would not be the first time an asylum seeker will be investigated or charged with war crimes or crimes against humanity. Several migrants have been charged over war crimes that took place during the Syrian civil war and other conflicts in the Middle East.
Syrian asylum seeker Ibrahim Al F. was accused of committing war crimes and stealing priceless antique artefacts during the battle for Aleppo by a German court. He was believed to have commanded a jihadi militia consisting of around 150 Islamists in Syria who had connections to the Syrian rebel forces.
In Finland, two Iraqi migrants were also charged with war crimes having both fought with Islamic State. Among other incidents, they were said to have desecrated the bodies of enemy combatants.