Victims react as Swiss court jails Sonko   

Victims react as Swiss court jails Sonko   

Victims of former President Yahya Jammeh’s regime as well as right activists have reacted to a court verdict in Switzerland yesterday that sentenced former Gambian Interior Minister Ousman Sonko to 20 years imprisonment.

Swiss authorities indicted Mr Sonko for being a key player in the systematic use of torture, rape, extra-judicial executions, arbitrary detention and forced disappearances that characterised the 22 year’s rule of former Gambian dictator, Yahya Jammeh.

TRIAL International, Swiss based human rights NGO dedicated to fighting against impunity, in 2017 filed a complaint against Ousman Sonko when he fled The Gambia to Europe, seeking asylum in Sweden but later referred to Switzerland, under whose visa he traveled to Europe. The office of the Attorney General of Switzerland and the Federal Police raided Sonko’s residence and placed him under arrest, leading to probes into the nature and gravity of crimes alleged by the human rights lawyers of TRIAL International.

Below read the reactions of the victims and right activists:

Demba Ali Jawo, Chairman National Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations, states: “Most Gambians, particularly victims of the Yahya Jammeh regime, have welcomed the verdict of the Swiss court, sentencing former Interior Minister Ousman Sonko to 20 years imprisonment. We hope this would serve as a deterrence and a lesson to recalcitrant serving and future public officials that justice would be served, no matter how long it may take.” 

“However, some people wish that he would be repatriated to The Gambia to serve his sentence in the same harsh prison conditions that their victims had endured here.”

Madi Ceesay, a former Independent Newspaper journalist and a victim of Jammeh-era crimes, reacted: “I’m very, very relieved. I’m very happy after waiting for 17 years as a victim.” 

“Finally, the man I have alleged has now been convicted by a competent court, which is big relief for me and by extension my family. Because I have suffered in their hands and my family also suffered.” 

“And now that the justice is finally served, I am relieved and I think this is a signal to anybody that you cannot commit a crime and go scot free.”

Muhammed Sandeng, son of late Solo Sandeng, said: “I think the verdict is very welcome, and a step in the right direction in the sense that it fits into the progress that has been made in the accountability efforts throughout the world for Jammeh-era crimes.” 

“It signifies the commitment of the International community in its search for justice for Jammeh-era crimes.”

“It is a decision that rejuvenates hopes for accountability for all of these crimes that continue to hunt victims in various ways.” 

Baba Hydara, the co-publisher of The Point newspaper and son of slain journalist, Deyda Hydara, said: “Justice has prevailed again.

We are so delighted as victims over this second guilty verdict of another Yahya Jammeh enabler. 

He is paying price for all what he did wrong in the past as justice today has finally been served after a long wait. And we hope and pray that one day Yahya Jammeh himself face justice.”

Sheriff Mohammed Kijera, President Accountability Project Gambia states: “The conviction of Ousman Sonko is a great news for international justice. One by one the chickens are coming home to roost. The Swiss authorities have set a precedence for Gambia to leave no stone unturned to put in place competent accountability mechanism to try Yaya Jammeh and his gang of thugs before the justice system. By all indication, he Sonko’s conviction has shown the world that there is no safe haven for fugitives of international crimes anywhere in the world.”

Essa Mbye, former lead counsel of TRRC, states: “Fellow Gambians, today another important chip in the brutal regime of 1994-2016 has fallen-Ousman Sonko has been convicted by a Swiss court and sentenced to 20 years in prison. This is the third operative of that brutal regime to be convicted of very serious crimes they have committed against innocent and powerless Gambians. Two of these convictions-Bai Lowe and Ousman Sonko occurred in Europe and unfortunately only one-Yankuba Touray occurred in The Gambia. On this historic occasion, I congratulate all the staff and commissioners of the TRRC for their stellar work in unearthing the violations that formed the basis of these charges and convictions. I also congratulate the victim groups for their roles in securing the accountability process in these cases. But there is still much work to be done.

During my closing remarks at the TRRC, I stated that the wheels of justice for the atrocity crimes committed in our country have started moving. Accountability must happen as the train of justice has left the station. If Gambia does not prosecute there are other states or institutions out there which would prosecute including the ICC. Now we see that in slow motion in the international sphere. But, we need to see progress domestically. While I recognize that the government has taken critical positive steps towards accountability by presenting the necessary enabling legal framework bills to the National Assembly, the process is too slow. One wonders whether there is political will to bring the architects and major perpetrators to justice. 

The government of The Gambia must do more. It must implement fully all the recommendations of the TRRC and must also establish an effective mechanism for accountability/prosecution. The dillydallying and feet dragging must stop at least to show respect for the victims and to honor the pledge to and aspirations of the Gambian people.”

Neneh M.C. Cham, President, Gambia Bar Association states: This morning’s judgment yet again sends a powerful message that impunity is not an option and that no matter where alleged perpetrators of crimes may be in this world, they will be held accountable under Universal Jurisdiction. It demonstrates the International community’s resolve to end impunity and ensure that the rule of law prevails regardless of where crimes were committed.

“It comes at a time when the government of The Gambia has finally begun setting the stage for the prosecution of those who bear the greatest responsibility for human rights abuses as recommended by the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission. It gives other victims hope for they have been waiting for too long.”

Fatou Jagne Senghore, Founder, Center for Women’s Rights and Leadership, states: “This trial sends a clear message that perpertrators of crimes against humanity under Jammeh will account for their acts no matter how long it takes and will not find safe haven to escape from justice.”

Saul Mbenga, New York, said: “The long arms of Justice, reaching out to all nooks and crannies of Human Rights violations in Gambia under Jammehism.”

“Unfortunately, it takes European and American benevolence for justice, to secure two convictions of perpetrators, not in Gambia or Africa. Shame on those profiting from the misery of victims.”

Abdoulaye Saine, Executive Director, 

Nyang-Sanneh Institute for Social Research and Justice, The Gambia, said: “Ousman Sonko’s conviction and stiff sentence in Switzerland is historic and hopefully brings closure to his victims. This is a warning to those on the run and or in hiding that the arm of the law shall pounce on them sooner than later.”

Source: The Point

Post a Comment

Translate »