FACTSHEET: Ousman Sonko’s Swiss Justice Cost Over D268.8 Million

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By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT

A Swiss Court sentenced former Interior Minister, Ousman Sonko, to 20 years in prison on 15th May 2024 making him the most high-profile conviction of a senior government official under Universal Jurisdiction in Europe. However, the price of justice is not cheap and will cost over CHF 3.6 million Swiss Franc, which translates to over D268.8 million Gambian Dalasis (at a rate of D74.4 Dalasis per CHF1 Swiss Franc). Our findings reveal that significant costs have been imposed on Ousman Sonko with a huge chunk to be paid by the Swiss Government.

This factsheet highlights the conviction of Ousman Sonko and the cost of the procedural fees, legal fees and claimants’ compensation incurred by the Ousman Sonko Trial. It’s important to note that the Defense Lawyer has triggered the appeals process which costs have not been included in this factsheet. Our factsheet reveals that the lead Defense Lawyer Philippe Currat will receive over CHF1.09 million Swiss Franc (over D81.6 million Dalasis).

Who is Ousman Sonko?

Ousman Sonko was a former member of the Gambia Armed Forces who rose up to the rank of Minister for Interior and Inspector General of Police under the repressive government of former President Yahya Jammeh. He joined the Gambian Army in 1988 and eventually joined the State Guard, responsible for protecting former President Jammeh in 1995. Sonko rose up to the position of Commander of the State Guard in July 2003 and later promoted to the position of Commanding Officer of the First Infantry Battalion.

Sonko rose to the pinnacle of the Gambia Police Force when former President Jammeh appointed him as the Inspector General of Police in 2005 and as Minister for Interior from November 2006 to February 2012 and again from May 2012 to September 2016. According to reports, Sonko was appointed as Interior Minister after impressing former President Jammeh during his tenure as Inspector General of Police. Sonko was also assigned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, first as ambassador to Spain and then to Venezuela from February 2012 to May 2012.

OUSMAN SONKO – Photo by TRIAL International

What is Sonko Sentenced for?

Swiss Prosecutors filed multiple charges against Ousman Sonko who was sentenced to 20 years in prison by Swiss Federal Criminal Court Judges Alberto Fabbri, President, Martin Stupf and Josephone Contu Albrizio.

Charges against Ousman Sonko on multiple counts of rape were discontinued. However, Swiss courts found Ousman Sonko guilty for multiple counts of homicide as a crime against humanity in the deaths of Lieutenant Almamo Manneh, Baba Jobe and Ebrima Solo Sandeng. Sonko was also found guilty of multiple counts of false imprisonment as a crime against humanity to the detriment of Bunja Darboe, Demba Dem, Ramzia Diab, Musa Saidykhan and Madi Ceesay.

The former Police Chief was also found guilty for multiple counts of torture as crimes against humanity to the detriment of Bunja Darboe, Ramzia Diab, Demba Dem, Musa Saidykhan, Madi Ceesay, Ebrima Solo Sandeng, Nogoi Njie, Modou Ngum, Fatou Camara, Fatoumatta Jawara, and Modou Touray.

Ousman Sonko has been sentenced to a custodial sentence of 20 years which takes into account some 2,667 days (over 7 years) already served while in pre-trial and preventive detention before the date of the judgement. This means that Ousman Sonko will serve just over 12 years in a Swiss prison in Bern.

After this, Ousman Sonko will be expulsed (entry ban and exclusion order) from Switzerland for a period of 12 years.

Financing Ousman Sonko’s Swiss Justice

 

  1. According to the Judgement of 15th May 2024 by the Federal Criminal Court of Judges the total cost of the Swiss Trial including compensation and legal fees totals over CHF 3.6 million Swiss Francs (D268.8 million Dalasis).
  2. The biggest component (39%) is the Claimants Legal Fees totalling over CHF1.4 million Swiss Franc (over D104.5 million Dalasis) which will be shared between 9 lawyers of the Claimants and paid for by the Confederation. Claimants are the victims seeking redress in the Swiss Courts. In the Gambia they are often referred to as plaintiffs.
  3. The second biggest component (30%) is the Legal Fees for two of Ousman Sonko’s Lawyers who will be paid over CHF 1 million CHF. The biggest earner from the entire case is Lawyer Philippe Currat who will receive over CHF 1.097 million Swiss Franc (over D81.6 million) while his counterpart Lawyer Marc Wollman has already been paid a meagre CHF 1,633 Swiss Franc (over D121 thousand) in full by the confederation.
  4. Next comes the procedural costs for the entire court proceedings which will cost over CHF 889,445.30 Swiss Franc (over D66 million). Out of this amount Ousman Sonko is designated to pay just over CHF 844,973 Swiss Franc, which translates to 95% of the court’s procedural costs. These costs are imposed on Ousman Sonko but have not been affected yet.
  5. Only CHF14,413 Swiss Franc (over D1.07 million) was seized from Ousman Sonko by Swiss Authorities and all of that money is being awarded to pay off part of the victims Compensation.
  6. Last on the list is Compensation for Claimants which translates to only 6% of the overall CHF3.6 million Swiss Franc. Victims will only be awarded a total of CHF219,720 Swiss Franc (over D16.3 million). To date, it’s expected that the CHF14,413 Swiss Franc will be awarded to Claimants shortly which will leave CHF205,307 Swiss Franc outstanding for Claimants Compensation.
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