By Edrissa Jallow reporting from Switzerland
Sitting at the heart of the plenary, wearing a yellow polo shirt and black shawl, Mr Modou Ngum detailed a harrowing testimony of how he was subjected to torture, and inhumane and degrading treatment after he was arrested in April 2016. Mr Ngum’s arrest occurred after Police cracked down on a protest for electoral reforms led by the late Solo Sandeng.
At that point Ousman Sonko was the Minister of Interior, however, yesterday 16th January 2024 he was confronted by one of his victims at the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona where other victims listened as he recanted the torture sessions he endured.
According to Mr Ngum’s testimony, he was electrocuted by Officers of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and Junglers in April 2016.
It could be recalled that in April 2016, the biggest opposition, the United Democratic Party (UDP) led a protest against Former President Yahya Jammeh resulting in the extrajudicial killing of political activist Solo Sandeng who died in custody while Ngum and others were detained and tortured severely.
The indictment against Ousman Sonko captured that at the April 2016 political rally, the alleged perpetrator, Ousman Sonko “in complicity with the group of perpetrators, tortured several opposition members, specifically Nokoi NJIE, Modou NGUM, Fatou CAMARA, Fatoumatta JAWARA and Modou TOURAY, and unlawfully deprived them of their liberty” as well as Ebrima Solo Sandeng who was among the leading organizers of the protest for electoral reforms.
During his testimony, Mr Ngum told the court (in Mandinka and translated to German) that the NIA Junglers tortured him in a private room and even planned to castrate him.
“The NIA, [and the] Junglers took me to a separate tiny room and tortured me until I couldn’t hear myself crying. They later threw me on the grass in an open courtyard. That was where I opened my eyes,” said Mr Ngum.
He added that the Junglers made him regret telling them that it was his right to be an opposition. Mr Ngum revealed that he was tortured psychologically when the Junglers threatened “to castrate me. [After which] they electrocuted my [private parts]. I yelled and they were laughing. They put my feet into cold water”.
At that very moment, Mr Ngum stated that he heard the Interior Minister, Ousman Sonko say “that whoever jokes with the president, the vultures will have you for dinner” and at that instance “I had blood all over my body. I asked them for water but they refused. I had a wound on my hand”.
“The police were under the command of Ousman Sonko and he was present on the panels and Sonko was there when I asked for water to drink. It was refused [by Ousman Sonko]”.
Fatoumatta Camara and Fatoumatta Jawara were both present in the court and were seen with heads bowed down visibly in tears as Mr Ngum narrated the shocking encounter with the State machinery which included the Minister for Interior, Police, the NIA and the Junglers.
Junglers Poured Urine on Me
He continued to explain how he was maltreated when he appeared before the panel of investigators. I was made to appear before the panel “only wearing pants and a shirt. After the panel, they tortured me again and took me to Bamba Dinka. Based on stories I heard about Bamba Dinka (mosquito-infested room) when I heard I was being taken there, I nearly lost my memory. They poured urine on me and asked me to sit at a particular corner”.
Again, Mr Ngum was visibly disturbed as he relived the maltreatment he was subjected to. He paused to shed some tears after removing his glasses.
Mr Ngum revealed how he lost his sight in his left eye during his 14-day detention in Bamba Dinka and urinated blood after all the torture he was subjected to.
But his hearing capacity was not impaired as he “could hear Solo Sandeng crying, that was the last time we saw Solo. They beat him to death”, said Mr Ngum.
The mood of the court changed as Fatoumatta Sandeng, the daughter of Solo Sandeng was seen walking out of the court while Fatoumatta Camara and Hon Fatoumatta Jawara bowed on the table in tears.
You could hear a pin drop in the courtroom.
After a brief pause, Mr Ngum resumed his testimony as he explained how the Junglers used a hammer to break Ebrima Janko’s teeth. Mr Ngum revealed that the Junglers “were calling him a “Mandinka Journalist”.
“We were only taken to court after two weeks. It was only after a doctor came to attend to us that we were taken to court” said Mr Ngum. In his view the security officers who tortured, raped and killed victims “did not want the court to see [the victims] in the condition [battered and bruised] that was why I was allowed to see a doctor. They told us not to wear our clothes with which we were tortured. They bought us new clothes,” said Mr Ngum.
This was obviously because their clothes were draped in blood after the gruelling torture sessions they were subjected to.
Mr Ngum explained that they were transferred to Mile 2 Central Prison in Banjul, after 14 days and they were provided better treatment because “they did not want the court to see us in a bad condition”.