A former interior minister and enforcer for a violent and autocratic Gambian president was convicted of crimes against humanity on Wednesday for the torture and executions of civilians and sentenced to 20 years in prison by Switzerland’s federal court.

The verdict, which one plaintiff called a “milestone” for victims, came after a landmark trial that was followed closely by victims of the government’s repression.

The former minister, Ousman Sonko, 55, was found guilty of multiple counts of intentional homicide, torture and false imprisonment that were committed, the court said, as “part of a systematic attack on the civilian population” of the West African country.

His lawyer said he would appeal the verdict.

Mr. Sonko, who moved to Switzerland in 2016 and has been in custody there since he was arrested in 2017, when a human rights group based in Geneva filed a criminal complaint against him, will serve 13 more years in prison and then face deportation to Gambia. The case was tried in Switzerland under the legal principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows states to prosecute serious crimes regardless of where in the world they were committed.

Mr. Sonko had held a series of powerful security jobs under Yahya Jammeh, an eccentric autocrat who ruled Gambia for 22 years before fleeing into exile to Equatorial Guinea after losing an election in 2017.

Mr. Sonko rose from commander of the presidential guard to police chief and then to interior minister, a post he held from 2000 to 2016. During that period, the court said, political opponents, journalists and critics of the government “were routinely tortured, executed extrajudicially, arbitrarily arrested and detained.”


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