By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
In what is considered the most high-profile case of universal jurisdiction in Switzerland, former Minister of Interior and Inspector General of Police, Ousman Sonko will face trial for crimes allegedly committed under the dictatorship of former President Yahya A J J Jammeh next week 8th January 2024.
Former Jungler Driver, Bai Lowe was convicted by a German court in Celle for the killing of the former President of the Gambia Press Union, Deyda Hydara, former Military personnel Dawda Nyassi and the attempted murder of Lawyer Ousman Sillah on 30th November 2023. According to Bai Lowe who confessed to now-deceased Freedom Newspaper Journalist, Pa Nderry Mbai, Ousman Sonko provided intelligence to the Junglers in multiple operations to eliminate perceived enemies of former President Jammeh.
The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) investigated the human rights violations that occurred during the leadership of President Jammeh who seized power after a coup on 22nd July 1994 and maintained a vice grip on the Presidency until January 2017. The TRRC recommended for former President Jammeh, the Junglers, Ousman Sonko and multiple others be prosecuted for heinous human rights violations including enforced disappearances, murder, rape, torture and others.
But Ousman Sonko was not your usual trigger-happy assassin executing Jammeh’s enemies himself. He rarely got his hands dirty. A man of few words, Sonko rose through the ranks in the Army until he became the commander of the State Guards, he eventually became the Inspector General of Police in 2004 and the Minister of Interior from 2005 to 2016 when he fled to Switzerland to seek asylum.
Ousman Sonko the Elusive Operative
In an interview between now-deceased Freedom Newspaper Journalist, Pa Nderry Mbai, he questioned Bai Lowe (convicted Jungler in Germany) on Ousman Sonko’s role in Deyda Hydara’s killing. Bai Lowe stated that Ousman Sonko “was giving information about the target’s location. He was on the intelligence side”.
Further clarification from the journalist queried if “Ousman Sonko was the one calling you guys [Bai Lowe’s Jungler Squad] to give you directions?” In response to this Bai Lowe confirmed that Ousman Sonko “was the one calling, my responsibility was only to drive”. Deyda Hydara was killed in 2004 while Sonko was the Inspector General of Police.
TRRC Criminal Liability and Swiss Indictment
According to the list of persons who bear Criminal Liability published by the Ministry of Justice in reaction to the TRRC, Ousman Sonko was listed at least three times for prosecution. The first mention states that Ousman Sonko and multiple others listed in the statement are responsible for the attempted murder of Lawyer Ousman Sillah. Lawyer Ousman Sillah is not listed as a private claimant in the case and the Swiss indictment is silent on his matter.
The second instance notes that Ousman Sonko and multiple others are responsible for the tortures of Bunja Darboe and multiple others. Bunja Darboe, military personnel, is listed as a private claimant in the case. Even though Bunja Darboe testified before the TRRC, the Government’s White Paper is silent on Bunja Darboe but the MOJ’s Criminal Liability and the Swiss Indictment are not.
According to Swiss Prosecutors “Ousman Sonko — in complicity with the group of perpetrators, tortured various persons — including Bunja Darboe, Ramzia Diab, Demba Dem, Bunja Darboe, Musa Saidykhan and Madi Ceesay”. The Swiss Indictment states that the arrest, torture and assault were done in connection with a coup attempt in March 2006. Hon Madi Ceesay was a former President of the Gambia Press Union and is currently the member of Serrekunda West from the United Democratic Party. All the aforementioned victims are private claimants in the case.
The third instance states that Ousman Sonko is responsible for several rapes and torture of Binta Jamba. Further research on the Government’s White Paper highlights that Ousman Sonko is a sexual predator who preys on women.
According to the TRRC Sonko should be prosecuted for raping Binta Jamba, one protected witness F and sexually harassing another five female Prison Officers of the Gambia Prison Services. In reaction to the TRRC’s recommendation the Government’s White Paper “accepts the recommendation of the Commission. The Government further notes that Ousman Sonko is currently in pre-trial custody in Switzerland. The Gambia recognizes the efforts and collaboration of the Swiss authorities but notwithstanding reserves its rights to invoke its jurisdiction as necessary”.
The indictment gives more context on Ousman Sonko’s allegations relating to Binta Jamba whose husband was allegedly killed after which she endured repeated rape and sexual harassment. First, the indictment states that Almamo Manneh was killed by Sonko and his group of killers after they were suspected of a coup back in 2000. After this Sonko is alleged to have repeatedly raped Almamo Manneh’s widow, Binta Jamba from January 2000 to January 2005.
One of the TRRC’s observations under Enforced Disappearances describes Sonko as an elusive operative in the shadows pulling strings to eliminate his colleagues. “On the 20th of January 2000 following reports of another attempted coup, Lieutenant Almamo Manneh was shot and killed by soldiers. The Commission held that he was set up by Ousman Sonko who called him under false pretences and was killed by Musa Jammeh”. This was how Ousman Sonko operated.
The indictment alleges that Ousman Sonko intentionally killed Baba Jobe a former member of the National Assembly and business partner of former President Jammeh and raped a UDP female supporter. The indictment adds that Ousman Sonko tortured several opposition members of the UDP including Nokoi Njie, Modou Ngum, Fatou Camara, Fatoumatta Jawara and Modou Touray. Although all of these persons are listed as private claimants, Nokoi Njie has since passed away in 2023.
In addition to this Ousman Sonko is indicted for torturing Ebrima Solo Sandeng and subsequently intentionally killing him back in April 2016. Solo Sandeng is an iconic Political activist whose death sparked the catalyst for the Coalition government which eventually toppled the dictatorship of former President Jammeh. His daughter Fatoumatta Sandeng Darboe is a private claimant in the case.