Gambia: Multiple Rape Survivor Among 3 to Testify Against Ex-Minister Sonko

A Gambian survivor of multiple rapes is among three witnesses who will this week take a stable against former Interior Minister, Ousman Sonko in Switzerland. She is the widow of a former State Guards under Jammeh who was killed after being accused of plotting a coup against Yahya Jammeh.

Her husband was one of the top commanders of the State Guards under Jammeh who was shot and killed after he was alleged to be plotting the overthrow of Yahya Jammeh.

According to court sources in Switzerland, she (would-be witness) was evicted from her house and stayed with her mum’s. From there Sonko visited her to rape her. Often got her picked up to be raped until 2003. She fled to the US and got asylum, leaving her kids behind in The Gambia. However, Ousman Sonko is denying these allegations.

The former Gambian Interior Minister Ousman Sonko is facing charges of sexual violence, including rape as crimes against humanity, and others relating to torture, kidnapping, and unlawful killings. He served between 2000 and 2016 under then-President Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year rule that was marked by “systematic and widespread” human rights violations against actual and perceived opponents to his rule in The Gambia.

Sonko was arrested in Bern, Switzerland on January 26, 2017, the day after TRIAL International, a Swiss human rights NGO, filed a criminal complaint against him. The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland filed an indictment against Sonko before the Federal Criminal Court on April 17, 2023. The trial, taking place in the city of Bellinzona, is expected to last about three weeks, and follows three years of investigation that saw Sonko’s detention in custody in Switzerland.

“The trial of Ousman Sonko is another major step in the search for justice for victims of brutal crimes and their families committed under Jammeh’s rule,” said Sirra Ndow, coordinator of the Jammeh2Justice campaign: “The Sonko case should reinforce efforts back in The Gambia to try crimes under Jammeh’s rule so that perpetrators are held to account for the atrocities committed.”

Since Jammeh’s fall, The Gambia has moved forward with only two prosecutions for Jammeh-era crimes. In December 24, 2021, the final report of Gambia’s Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) found that Jammeh and 69 of his associates committed crimes against humanity, and called for their prosecution. On May 25, 2022, the Gambian government accepted the TRRC’s recommendation for accountability, but without an action plan.

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