Human rights activists are saying the Swiss judicial system is not giving the case of the former Gambian minister the urgency it deserves.
Sonko was arrested in Bern in January this year, on allegations of torture filed by the Swiss branch of TRIAL International. The allegations against him now include crimes against humanity, and his case has been referred to the federal authorities.
TRIAL legal advisor Sandra Delval has been working on the Sonko case. “The competent authorities can set an example by conducting quality investigations,” she said. “All the more so because former Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh, whose right arm Sonko was, is still at large with impunity, and victims are crying for justice. The presence on Swiss soil of the Number Two [sic] of the former Gambian regime means that Switzerland has a duty to set an example.”
Delval continued: “Our analysis at the current time is that universal jurisdiction cases are dragging. The prosecutors in charge do not have the resources to investigate and dedicate themselves to these cases as they should, because they also have many other cases to take care of (…). So universal jurisdiction cases get bogged down and are much slower.
In some cases we have the impression that there is a deliberate will to dismiss them. So we question the political will of Switzerland, which makes pretty speeches about the need for justice but which does not in practice dedicate the means.”
Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber, admitted that his staff are overstretched and that there is a lack of resources. “We have reached the limit of what an organisation can endure,” he said in an interview quoted by Swiss newspaper Le Temps.
But despite the criticism, both TRIAL and Civitas Maxima hail the efficiency of the Swiss authorities in arresting Sonko shortly after criminal complaints were filed against him.
The preventive detention order on Sonko was also renewed at the end of April and investigations against him are continuing, the Attorney General’s office confirmed.
The Gambian Interior minister had said the government wanted Sonko extradited.