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#National News

Witness Electrocuted, Denied Water, Drank Own Blood

By Sanna Camara

A witness in the ongoing trial of Mr Ousman Sonko, former Minister in charge of security under Yahya Jammeh told the court in Bellinzona, Switzerland on Tuesday that he was tortured by means of electrocution and other degrading treatments before appearing in front of an investigation panel. When he was thirsty and asked for water to drink, he was denied. So he had to drink his own blood as a result just to ingest fluid that his body badly needed after that experience.

The said witness (name withheld), was arrested on April 14, 2016 in a peaceful march for electoral reforms in The Gambia,  along with Solo Sandeng and others. Most of those arrested were opposition activists. They were rounded up and taken away to the infamous National Intelligence Agency. It was here that torture was administered on them, resulting to death of activist Solo Sandeng. The empanelled investigation team comprised Ousman Sonko who currently stands trial for these crimes.

“They placed me on the table and tied me. The Junglers came. They beat me up until I could not hear myself crying. They untied me and beat me on my arm. The mark is still here…,” pointing at his limb where healed wounds bear scars of his experience at the hands of the torturers.

After such an experience, victims are usually cooperative to say, do or confess to any crime the investigators want them to. In his case, he said he was taken outside to an area covered with Bahamas grass. He was asked to confess to mobilising people at Kombo South to protest against Jammeh.

His torture experience did not stop there. They also administered electricity on his genitals. “When they electrocuted me, I screamed, and they were laughing,” he recounted, noting that it was all done while his feet were put in a container filled with cold water. This allows the shock waves to have deeper effect on a victim’s body into the skeletal. When the torturers were satisfied, they took him to his cell before he appeared in front of the investigation panel.

“At the panel, I saw interior minister Ousman Sonko. I [also] saw the director of NIA. So they asked us the reason we demonstrated,” he told the court. Although he could not remember how many people were at the panel but Sonko was distinct among the security officials including those from NIA and the Police.

“And the NIA’s Operations Commander was there. I heard the Interior Minister [Ousman Sonko] say, ‘anyone who plays with the President, vultures will make you their dinner’.

The witness told the court that Mr Ousman Sonko was so close to Yahya Jammeh as Interior Minister. And that in every country, such a position holder as interior minister was very powerful and in-charge of the country: “What is clear is that the Junglers were answerable to Yahya Jammeh. But the security council, Ousman Sonko is a part of it. And he is very close to Yahya Jammeh.”

Human rights groups like Amnesty International had decried widespread acts of torture as a weapon of the authorities in the Jammeh regime against supposed opponents 8n The Gambia. This was confirmed by an official of the Gambia Prison Services those week, who testified that torture was “going on” in the Prisons, where inmates from the security wing and opposition members were subjected to on regular basis.

“Well throughout my experience, some inmates will be tortured whilst they are taken away. They used to come and beat them and whenever you ask, they say they are taken to NIA. Most of the time, the Junglers come there. They will pick inmates to NIA and after when they bring them, you would know that this guy has gone through something,” he said, maintaining that Mr Ousman Sonko was fully aware of these acts as Minster.

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