Tag Archives: human rights

'Gambia-victims, and resisters' portrait of Abdoulie Jamanti Darboe. Image ©Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio #Portraits4PositiveChange

‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’ new portraits by Jason Florio

‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’: Abdoulie Jamanti Darboe, a former clerk at the training school of the Gambia Armed Forces was arrested and tortured for his supposed involvement in the November 11th, 1994 alleged coup plot. Sent to Mile 2 Prison, he went to court three times. Each time the court stated ‘no case to answer’, and that he should be released. He was finally released, 18 months later, without trial.

“Every Friday at the mosque, I see the man who tortured me in prison. The perpetrators are still enjoying life while we suffer. Reconciliation is the only thing that will bring peace, but not if the perpetrators do not own up to their wrongs.”

Gambia – victims, and resisters

'Gambia-victims, and resisters' portrait of Sainabou Camara Lowe. Image ©Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio #Portraits4PositiveChange
‘Gambia-victims, and resisters‘ Sainabou Camara Lowe. Image ©Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio

“She’s alive! She’s alive! “

On April 10th, 2000, Sainabou Camara Lowe, then a young student, was caught up in student protests erupting in Serrekunda, Gambia’s business hub. She was captured and detained by four paramilitary officers. She was taken to one of the officer’s quarters, where they stripped off her school dress and tied a rope around her neck to restrain her. Sainabou said that the officers then stamped on all over her body, including her groin area until she passed out. Believing she was dead, the officers took her to the mortuary at the hospital. A nurse saw her, and while trying to remove the rope from the young girl’s neck – as she did not want Sainabou’s family to see her body in such a condition – Sainabou took a gasp of breath. “She’s alive! She’s alive!” the nurse shouted and rushed her to the Emergency Ward. Sainabou remained in the hospital for over three months – during which time she was treated for multiple injuries, including internal damage to her vagina.

“When the shooting started we (the students) all ran from the paramilitary. I’m trying to jump over the fence but I cannot.  I already threw one leg over but with the other one they dragged me down and threw me to the ground, they were beating me. Then they took me to their quarters and tied me up. With their boots they were dancing all over my body. Then I became unconscious. For seven days afterwards my family didn’t know where I was, they thought I was dead”

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Watch: I Cannot Bury My Father’ – Director of Photography, Jason Florio / for ANEKED

In 2005, 56 West African migrants, including 44 Ghanaians were murdered in The Gambia en route to Europe. The unarmed migrants were killed by the “Junglers”, a death squad reporting directly to President, Yahya Jammeh, Gambia’s dictator at the time. Evidence has since emerged that Yahya Jammeh, gave the orders to kill them. The families of the victims are still seeking justice.

At the time of release of this documentary, Yahya Jammeh is in exile in Equatorial Guinea. ©ANEKED

'Gambia-victims, and resisters' portrait of journalist, Pa Modou Faal. Image ©Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio #Portraits4PositiveChange
‘Gambia-victims, and resisters‘. Journalist, Pa Modu Faal. Image ©Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio

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Photographers, Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio - portrait courtesy Joanna Demarco, The Gambia, West Africa
Photographers/filmmakers, Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio – portrait courtesy Joanna Demarco, The Gambia, West Africa

From 1994 -2017 President Yahya Jammeh ruled The Gambia, West Africa, as his own personal fiefdom, crushing dissent, and opposition, with brutality.

His personal hit squad and intelligence agency carried out tortures, and assassinations with impunity – journalists were gunned down and disappeared, ministers were jailed, students shot in cold blood, and even his own brother and sister were murdered on his orders. 

With Jammeh’s 2016 election defeat, he went into exile after a standoff with regional forces, and the victims of his regime started to come forward.

So far, over one thousand victims and their families have registered with the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations to share their stories and help build international support to bring Jammeh to justice.

#Jammeh2Justice

This multi-media series is a work in progress – which began at the end of 2016, just before Jammeh was ousted (when we met Gambian dissidents who were hiding out in neighbouring Senegal). Helen and I, have many more portraits to make, and testimonies to film. We are forever indebted to all those who have shared their stories with us so far. View more from the series on my website floriophoto.com

Jason Florio

Photographer & Filmmaker

Current Location: September 2020 – Malta

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Gambia – justice is needed for 2005 massacre of migrants

Watch – ‘I Cannot Bury My Father’ Director of Photography, Jason Florio

Gambia – justice for 2005 massacre: July 22nd, 2020 – Today marks 15 years since Gambian security forces, on the orders of then-President Yahya Jammeh, killed over 50 West African migrants.

In July 2005, 56 West African migrants, including 44 Ghanaians were murdered in The Gambia en route to Europe. The unarmed migrants were killed by the ‘Junglers’, a death squad reporting directly to Yahya Jammeh, Gambia’s dictator at the time. Evidence has since emerged that Yahya Jammeh gave the orders to kill them. The families of the victims are still seeking justice. At the time of release of this documentary, Yahya Jammeh is in exile in Equatorial Guinea – ANEKED – watch the documentary, ‘I Cannot Bury My Father’

Isaac Mensah, James Town beach, Accra, Ghana © Jason Florio. Isaac is the son of one of 44 murdered Ghanian migrants, by Gambian security forces, in The Gambia, in 2005.
Isaac Mensah, James Town beach, Accra, Ghana. The son of Peter Mensah, one of 44 Ghanaians killed by Gambian security forces in July 2005 © Jason Florio /Helen Jones-Florio‘Gambia-victims, and resisters’

‘Gambia-victims, and resisters’

Martin Kyere, Ghana – the sole known survivor of the 2005 massacre by Gambian security forces . Image © Jason Florio /Helen Jones-Florio

Ghanaian, Martin Kyere, is the sole known survivor of the 2005 massacre in The Gambia of the West African migrants.

“When one of the soldiers used his cutlass to cut off Adamo’s shoulder and the blood is flowing all over the place…I think we realized then, that the soldiers wanted to kill us all.”

After their capture, the migrants were badly beaten and then split into two groups and handed over to the Junglers, Jammeh’s hit squad. Over one week, the Junglers summarily executed the group. Martin managed to slip the rope from his wrist and escape into the bush, undercover of the night, minutes before the executions began of the group he was with. He spent 4 days walking in the Gambian bush avoiding coming into contact with anyone until he was able to cross the border to safety in southern Senegal. 

“I jumped From the pickup and into the forest. I heard the soldiers shouting at me, but I did not look back. I  ran harder…I tripped on something in the forest that brought me down and gunshots passed over me and around me. But, it was dark so I lay still and waited until it was safe to move again. I could hear behind me ‘Oh God save us, Oh God save us’, and gunshots”. Martin told us that he knew then that his friends were being killed. 

Martin is now part of a campaign to bring Jammeh2Justice, for himself and the families of all of those whose loved ones were executed in The Gambia and Senegal in July 2005.

Ghanaian Sarah Boadu, holds a portrait of her father, Richmond Boadu, who was one of the the migrants killed by Gambian security forces in July 2005. Image © Jason Florio
Ghanaian, Sarah Boadu, holds a portrait of her father, Richmond Boadu, who was one of the the migrants killed by Gambian security forces. Image © Jason Florio /Helen Jones-Florio

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“A credible international investigation is needed if we’re ever going to get to the bottom of the 2005 massacre of West African migrants and create the conditions to bring those responsible to justice,” said Emeline Escafit, legal adviser at TRIAL International. “Until now, information has come out in dribs and drabs, year after year, from different sources.” Human Rights Watch

The family of Peter Mensah, one of 44 Ghanaians migrants who were attempting to travel to Europe by sea in 2005, captured and massacred by Gambian security forces. Image ©Jason Florio/helen Jones-florio #Portraits4PositiveChange
The family of Peter Mensah, one of 44 Ghanaians migrants who were attempting to travel to Europe by sea in 2005. They were apprehended by Gambian security forces then massacred by members of President Jammeh’s hit squad, ‘The Junglers’ on his orders. “We will not rest until we have my father’s body to bury and Jammeh is brought to justice.” Image ©Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio

Current Location: July 2020 – Malta

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Also @floriotravels  / @jasonflorio_photoprints– Instagram

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PRESS: El Pais - 'Gambia, The Hidden Horrors of Africa's Silent Dictatorship'. Images by Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio

Press: El Pais – ‘Gambia, The Hidden Horrors of Africa’s Silent Dictatorship’

Press: El Pais – Gambia, The Hidden Horrors of Africa’s Silent Dictatorship

– Three years after the fall of the Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh, pressured by the street after losing at the polls, a commission (Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations – TRRC) brings to light the terrible crimes committed for two decades, supported by its apparatus of repression, the collusion of justice and the outside inaction – Read the full feature El Pais / words by José Naranjo Noble

Victims of Jammeh - portraits by Jason Florio, The Gambia
Portrait © Jason Florio – 13year old Bintu Tunkara looks at a photograph of the father who she never got to meet, on her mother’s phone. Image © Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio

The images are from the on-going multimedia series

by Jason Florio and Helen Jones-Florio

‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’

PRESS: El Pais - 'Gambia, The Hidden Horrors of Africa's Silent Dictatorship'. Images by Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio
Press: El Pais – ‘Gambia, The Hidden Horrors of Africa’s Silent Dictatorship’. Read more about the featured images ©Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio

#Portraits4PositiveChange

Current Location: July 2020 – coming out of Lockdown London, UK

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The Gambia – finding truth and reconciliation

TRRC billboard, depicting portraits from ‘Gambia – victims. and resisters’ Image ©Jason Florio, The Gambia, West Africa

The tiny West African republic, The Gambia, is a popular winter-sun holiday destination for Europeans. However, most tourists have little idea of the dark and shattered underbelly of ‘The Smiling Coast of Africa’, as the Gambia is fondly called. From 1994 -2017 President Yahya Jammeh ruled the Gambia as his fiefdom, crushing dissent, and opposition with brutality. His personal hit squad and National Intelligence Agency carried out tortures, assassinations, and acts of sexual violence with impunity – journalists were gunned down and disappeared, students shot in cold blood, and even his cousins were murdered on his order. 

A Gambian man wears a t-shirt of murdered newspaper editor and journalist, Deyda Hydara (June 9, 1946 – December 16, 2004). Hydara was assassinated by Gambian security forces on the orders of President Yahya Jammeh. Image ©Jason Florio
A Gambian man wears a t-shirt of murdered newspaper editor and journalist, Deyda Hydara (June 9, 1946 – December 16, 2004). Image ©Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio

In October 2018 the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) launched in The Gambia – a televised commission investigating the human rights violations under the 22-year dictatorial rule of President Yahya Jammeh. The TRRC, suspended over the past couple of months due to COVID19, resumed on Monday 8th June 2020, hearing testimonies from the victims and survivors of Jammeh’s rule, along with those of the alleged perpetrators. It is a long, and extremely painful process for many, to finally have their voices heard, but also to see and hear the voices of those who are implicated in meting out shocking tortures, killings, and human rights abuses, and about what happened to their loved ones. 

‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’

#Portraits4PostiveChange

For over three years, we have been collaborating closely with the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations, and the TRRC; and have created permanent and mobile exhibitions of the portraits and testimonies. The exhibitions have now become part of Victims Centre and TRRC outreach work around the country, to bring the stories of victims to the people, to create dialogue and discussion around human rights and justice in this fledgling democracy – in hopes of opening eyes and winning hearts and minds. And, we will continue making the portraits and filming testimonies once flights to Gambia resume after the lockdown.

Portrait of Amie Lowe - daughter of Ebou Lowe, a soldier executed on Yahya Jammeh's orders after being accused of a coup attempt, The Gambia, West Africa. Image ©Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio
Amie Lowe – daughter of Ebou Lowe, a soldier executed on Jammeh’s orders after being accused of a coup attempt. Image ©Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio
Portrait of Sankung Balajo - victims of President Yahya Jammeh's witch hunts, The Gambia, in 2009 © Jason Florio
Sankung Balajo – victim of President Yahya Jammeh’s ‘witch hunts’, The Gambia © Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio

The Gambia – finding truth and reconciliation

Amie Bayo - portrait, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio 'Gambia - Victims and Resisters of a Regime',
Amie Bayo – Arrested after a peaceful protest, held for 11 days without due process, during which time she was beaten by security forces. © Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio
'Victims of Jammeh' The Gambia, West Africa - portraits by Jason Florio
Portraits from ‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’ The Gambia, West Africa. Images ©Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio
Photography exhibition opening night at the National Centre for Arts and Culture, Banjul. Portraits ©Jason Florio and Helen Jones-Florio Gambia-victims, and resisters, Portraits to Remember
Opening night of ‘Portraits to Remember’ exhibition at the National Centre for Arts & Culture, Banjul, The Gambia, in collaboration with ANEKED & Sites of Conscience. Portraits on display ©Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio. Exhibition Image ©Jason Florio

Current Location: June 2020 – easing lockdown in the UK

Assignment queries and image licensing – Contact here

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