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Gambian ex-minister convicted in Swiss court for crimes against humanity

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In a landmark decision utilizing Europe’s universal jurisdiction, a Swiss court on Wednesday found a former Gambian government minister guilty of crimes against humanity committed under former dictator Yahya Jammeh. It sentenced him to 20 years in prison.

Ousman Sonko was convicted guilty of multiple counts of deliberate killing, torture, and false detention by the Federal Criminal Court. The former interior minister of the Gambia, Sonko, was cleared of any charges of sexual assault in 2016.

“The trial chamber found Ousman Sonko guilty of multiple counts of intentional homicide, multiple counts of torture and multiple counts of deprivation of liberty, each as a crime against humanity,” the court said in a statement.

“The trial chamber concludes that Ousman Sonko committed these crimes…. as part of a systematic attack against the civilian population.”

Using universal jurisdiction, which enables the prosecution of the most serious crimes anywhere, Sonko is the highest-ranking official to ever be tried by a European nation. The campaign organization TRIAL International, located in Geneva, backed the plaintiffs when they launched the initial complaint against Sonko.

While criticizing his seven-year pre-trial imprisonment, which he claimed included some time in solitary confinement, Sonko refuted the allegations and charged the plaintiffs with lying.

Jammeh and Sonko had a falling out during the last few months of the dictator’s 22-year totalitarian reign, which came to an end in January 2017 when the leader was forced to leave to exile in Equatorial Guinea following an electoral setback.  Sonko was detained in Switzerland in the same month he applied for asylum.

Using universal jurisdiction, which enables the prosecution of the most serious crimes anywhere, Sonko is the highest-ranking official to ever be tried by a European nation.

The campaign organization TRIAL International, located in Geneva, backed the plaintiffs when they launched the initial complaint against Sonko.

While criticizing his seven-year pre-trial imprisonment, which he claimed included some time in solitary confinement, Sonko refuted the allegations and charged the plaintiffs with lying.

Jammeh and Sonko had a falling out during the last few months of the dictator’s 22-year totalitarian reign, which came to an end in January 2017 when the leader was forced to leave to exile in Equatorial Guinea following an electoral setback.

Sonko was detained in Switzerland in the same month he applied for asylum. Meanwhile, the public prosecutor in Switzerland had requested the maximum sentence of life in jail.

 

“The conviction of Ousman Sonko, one of the pillars of Yahya Jammeh’s brutal regime, is a major step on the long road to justice for Jammeh’s victims,” Reed Brody, a war crimes prosecutor attending the trial, told Reuters.

“The long arm of the law is catching up with Yahya Jammeh’s accomplices all around the world, and hopefully will soon catch up with Jammeh himself,” he said.

 

The Bellinzona court heard details of crimes allegedly committed between 2000 and 2016 by Sonko or under his supervision between January and March. This is Switzerland’s second-ever civilian prosecution for crimes against humanity.

Politics

5 parties now part of South Africa’s unity government— ANC

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South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), has announced that negotiations with other parties are still underway as the party forms a government with five opposition parties.

The ANC was obliged to form coalitions with other political parties after last month’s election because it was unable to secure a parliamentary majority for the first time since the 1994 election that brought an end to apartheid.

The Democratic Alliance, led by white people and supportive of business, supported ANC leader Cyril Ramaphosa in his reelection as president of South Africa’s parliament on Friday. Two smaller parties, the right-wing Patriotic Alliance and the socially conservative Inkatha Freedom Party, also supported the party.

The ANC said on Monday that GOOD, a smaller party, has also committed to join the unity government agreement. According to an ANC statement, this group holds 273 seats in the National Assembly or 68% of the total.

South Africa’s 400 seats make up its parliament. The IFP has 17 seats, the PA has 9 seats, the DA is the second-largest party with 87 seats, the ANC has 159 seats, and GOOD has one seat. According to the ANC, the unity government would guarantee that all involved parties had representation in government and would reach decisions by consensus.

The ANC stated that the unity government will prioritize land reform, infrastructure development, job creation, fixed capital investment promotion, and quick, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth.

“The president will exercise the prerogative to appoint the cabinet, in consultation with leaders of GNU (government of national unity) parties, adhering to existing protocols on government decision-making and budgeting,” the ANC said, adding it was still in discussions with more parties to join the government.

With 39 seats, the Marxist Economic Freedom Fighters party has declared that it will not serve in a government with the Democratic Alliance (DA) or the Freedom Front Plus, two organizations that receive support from the white minority.

The former president Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto we Sizwe party is likewise not a member of the unity government. With 58 seats in the National Assembly, it has declared that it will join the EFF and the center-left United Democratic Movement in the “Progressive Caucus,” a group of minor opposition parties in parliament.

The unity government will face official resistance from this alliance.

“With populist parties choosing to reject the GNU, and the ANC’s bigger partners in the governing coalition centre-leaning and favouring more liberal economic policies, we think the GNU opens the possibility for more growth-friendly structural reforms and prudent macroeconomic policy choices,” HSBC economist David Faulkner said in a note.

“But the GNU could also face ideological divisions and exacerbate fractures within the ANC, factors that could make establishing a stable policy framework difficult.”

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South Africa: Parliament reelects Cyril Ramaphosa as president

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President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa has been re-elected for a second term. He was nominated for re-election on Friday by a member of his African National Congress (ANC) party during the first sitting of parliament following last month’s election.

Julius Malema, the opposition Economic Freedom Fighter, was also put forward for the nation’s presidency, necessitating a vote in parliament to determine the winner.

With a majority of votes in the National Assembly, Chief Justice Ramaphosa was proclaimed president. Julius Malema, the leader of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party, received 44 votes, while Ramaphosa received 283.

The Democratic Alliance party said earlier in the day that it would support Ramaphosa in the election as part of a deal to establish a unity government with the African National Congress.

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa has been re-elected for a second term. He was nominated for re-election on Friday by a member of his African National Congress (ANC) party during the first sitting of parliament following last month’s election.

Out of the 400 seats in the recently elected National Assembly, 246 are held by the ANC and DA.

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