SWITZERLAND: 2 Gambians Testify in former Interior Minister’s pre-trial Investigation

By Kebba Jeffang

Trial International’s attorney Bénédict De Moerloose said 2 Gambian victims had already arrived in Switzerland whose testimonies were collected by the Office of the Federal Prosecutor as investigations continue into the case of former Gambian Interior Minister Ousman Sonko.

He was speaking on telephone in an exclusive interview with Foroyaa Newspaper where he confirmed the continuous pre-trial detention of Sonko.

“We filed a complaint in January and he was arrested in January and the prosecutor has been working on the case in Switzerland at the investigative stage,” said Moerloose.

He said the prosecution is investigating the matter in Switzerland but added that the investigation is transparent despite being done in secret by the Office of the Federal Prosecutor.

“It is transparent because the prosecutor calls the witnesses and victims to come and testify,” he said.

Former interior minister Ousman Sonko

He indicated that the victims are being represented by their lawyers in the proceedings which show a high level of transparency through the victims and their lawyers.

“So what we know, because we are in touch with the victims, is that only two victims were able to come to testify. These victims have a special stance but they are also considered witnesses because they have something to say on what happened to them.

They are civil parties. That is how we call them. Both victims are Gambians and they travelled from the Gambia to Switzerland to be able to testify but we cannot say their names.

Their hearings lasted for 3 days for each of them so it’s much detail and we are quite happy that the proceedings are taken seriously by the prosecutor and by the Swiss authority. The evidence is that Sonko is still in jail in Switzerland,” Trial International attorney said.

Moerloose said the evidence of the two victims is very important and he indicated that their testimonies are directly implicating Sonko.

He added that their trip to the Gambia for evidence collection was successful but he prefers not to give details on that. He said so far, only two have testified and 5 people have filed complaints while they are waiting for two more to file their complaints.

He said they have read on one of the Swiss newspapers quoting the Gambian Justice Minister that they are willing to cooperate with the Swiss authorities but they are for now not asking for extradition of the former interior minister.

“I believe that the Swiss authority is in touch with the Gambian authorities who have stated publicly that for now they are not asking for his extradition but they are going to collaborate with the Swiss authority.

This doesn’t mean that at one stage when the Gambian authorities are ready and have done sufficient investigations in the Gambia they will also allow Sonko’s extradition. But this might come at a later stage,” he explained.

He said the case is very important to Trial International because it is an important case for the victims and it shows that justice can be served. He expressed high hope indicating Switzerland is taking the case seriously and that the Gambian authorities are also satisfied with the case.

“The Gambian authorities want to cooperate and we look forward to the closing of the investigation and to see whether the Swiss authority is going to send the case for trial. But in case it is sent for trial it will be very important news for the victims of the brutal regime of former President Yahya Jammeh,” said attorney Moerloose.

Trial International is a non-governmental organization fighting impunity for international crimes and supporting victims in their quest for justice.