A Bernese court ordered the arrest of Ousman Sonko, who served under Yahya Jammeh, the dictator who ruled the West African country for 22 years. Sonko was sacked by Jammeh and then fled for Europe. He has been living in an asylum center in canton Bern since last November.
“He has been arrested and will be heard soon,” Amaël Gschwind, a spokesperson for the cantonal prosecutor, told Swiss public television, SRF. Authorities confirmed they also launched an investigation into suspected crimes against humanity by Sonko, who commanded an elite squad in Gambia notorious for its brutality.
Last September, Sonko tried to obtain asylum in Sweden. He then fled to Switzerland, where he filed an asylum application. After his presence became known, the Geneva-based group TRIAL International filed a criminal complaint against him for alleged participation in what the group calls the Jammeh regime’s “widespread use of torture and extrajudiciary executions”.
The complaint asked Bernese judicial authorities to prosecute Sonko for alleged brutality against opponents through detentions, beatings and killings. The group asked for Sonko to be charged, as is allowable in Switzerland, under an international anti-torture treaty and the Swiss criminal code.
“As the head of detention centers, M Sonko could not have ignored the large-scale torture that political opponents, journalists and human rights defenders suffered there”, Benedict de Moerloose, head of the inquiries and criminal law division at TRIAL, said in a statement.
A regional public prosecutor in Bern received the criminal denunciation from TRIAL and was examining Sonko’s case.