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Swiss sued in US over road death

The Swiss government is being sued in the United States for $10 million (SFr9.44 million) after a woman was killed when hit by a vehicle owned by the Swiss embassy.

This content was published on December 29, 2011 - 20:27
swissinfo.ch and agencies

The incident occurred in Washington in October. According to media reports, the driver of the vehicle was a former domestic servant of Hannibal Gaddafi - son of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi – who was involved in an incident in Geneva in 2008 that sparked a major diplomatic row between Switzerland and Libya.

Both the driver and the Swiss Confederation are named as co-defendants in the lawsuit filed in the US District Court of Columbia on December 22. The plaintiff is the woman’s husband, Harvey Rishikof, a professor of law and national security at Washington’s National Defense University.

The suit claims that the driver "negligently and recklessly drove the SUV that struck and killed" Trudith Rishikof. The accident report states that she had right of way when she was hit crossing a busy road.

The damages claimed are to compensate for the distress caused to the family, hospital costs, and for the victim’s loss of earnings. Trudith Rishikof worked at the Washington branch of the Alliance Française.
 
The accident report listed the Swiss embassy as the driver’s home address and as the owner of the vehicle.

Although the Swiss have not confirmed – for reasons of data protection – the identity of the driver, it is known that Hannibal’s former servants were given temporary employment at the Swiss embassy in Washington, because their safety could not be guaranteed in Switzerland. This appointment was agreed with the US State Department.

Hannibal fled to Algeria at the end of August during the uprising against his father. The Swiss News Agency suggested that uncertainty about his current whereabouts is one reason why the Swiss authorities believe it is necessary to keep the servant under protection.
 
In an email response to enquiries by swissinfo.ch, a spokesman for the foreign ministry confirmed that an embassy employee was involved in a car accident in October in Washington in which a woman was killed.
 
The spokesman said the ministry had yet to be formally notified of the lawsuit filed in the US and therefore could not comment further.

News agencies have been unable to obtain confirmation from either the Washington embassy, or the Swiss justice office.

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