Using Satellites to Track Human Rights Abuses

We’ve written before about scientists using satellites to track climate change and uncover Mayan ruins. Now scientists and activists are using satellites for another purpose– to spot human rights abuses:

Satellite images captured under a pioneering program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) provide powerful evidence that the government of Zimbabwe has destroyed an entire settlement and relocated thousands of residents as part of a campaign against political opponents.

The images, analyzed by the AAAS staff, show two views of the settlement of Porta Farm, located just west of the Zimbabwean capital of Harare. The first, an archived image from June 2002, shows an intact settlement with more than 850 homes and other buildings; an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 people lived in Porta Farm at the time. The second photo, taken by satellite on 6 April this year, shows that the settlement has been leveled.

The pictures were released Wednesday 31 May as central evidence in a report compiled by the international secretariat of Amnesty International in London and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), based in Harare. The report, “Shattered Lives: The Case of Porta Farm,” views the destruction of the settlement and the forced relocation of its residents as emblematic of a broad campaign by the government of President Robert Mugabe to repress political opposition.

(Via Kottke.) 

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