Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The use of satellite imagery in detecting human rights violations

Here is a slightly different take on science and religion: the use of satellite imagery to look for violence targeted against specific ethnic groups - Somali Muslims, in this particular case:
An analysis of high-resolution satellite imagery by AAAS has helped confirm evidence that the Ethiopian military has attacked civilians and burned towns and villages in eight locations across the remote Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia.

The images and analysis provided crucial corroboration for a 130-page report released today in Nairobi, Kenya, by Human Rights Watch following a four-month investigation, which also used eyewitness accounts to demonstrate the attacks on tens of thousands of ethnic-Somali Muslims living in the East African country.

The before and after image is below and you can find an annotated image here.

before (Sept 2005)

after (Feb 2008)

Lars Bromley, project director for the AAAS Science and Human Rights Program (SHRP), obtained and analyzed several "before" and "after" satellite images of villages identified by Human Rights Watch as possible locations of human rights violations. Of the imaged sites, eight bore signs consistent with the attacks described, primarily in villages and small towns in the Wardheer, Dhagabur, and Qorrahey Zones.

"This use of geospatial technologies demonstrates how science and technology can enhance human rights documenting and reporting," said SHRP Director Mona Younis. "AAAS, along with other organizations, is committed to identifying and developing new and practical science-based solutions to human rights challenges, and our geospatial technologies work is one example of that."

This is very useful and this technique has been used before in documenting human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, Burma, Chad, and the Darfur region of Sudan. Read the full article here.