Human Rights Documentation


Case Studies | Multimedia | Past Projects| News

The promotion and protection of human rights was the foundation upon which the AAAS Geospatial Technologies Project was built when the Project began in 2005. Since that time, AAAS has used geospatial technologies to illuminate on-the-ground human rights concerns, including: mass violence; secret detention; extrajudicial executions; internal displacement; forced evictions; and displacement caused by development projects. In partnership with an array of NGOs, as well as international courts and commissions, the project's work in the sphere of human rights has generated quantifiable information on dozens of human rights cases worldwide. Through these partnerships, the project has helped to strengthen the impact of human rights advocacy and provide a tool for achieving legal redress in cases of mass human rights violations.

Human Rights Case Studies

An important component of the AAAS Geospatial Technologies Project is the dissemination of information on applications of geospatial technology for the human rights community.

To learn about all the case studies conducted by the Project, please download our ebook of case studies.


Benefits of Geospatial Technologies in Human Rights Work

This video describes the many ways that geospatial technologies can inform and benefit human rights work.

Applications of High-Resolution Satellite Imagery to Human Rights

Through several real-life examples, this video gives a brief overview of how high-resolution satellite imagery can reveal human rights violations.

What are Geospatial Technologies?

In part one of the Geospatial Technologies Project's Webinar, Susan Wolfinbarger provides background on the technology, and provides examples from the project's work.

Getting Started with Geospatial Solutions

Part two of the Geospatial Technologies Project's Webinar continues, with Eric Ashcroft describing some easy ways that novices can begin using the technology.

Evaluating Merits and Applicability

The Geospatial Technologies Project's Webinar concludes with Jonathan Drake explaining how to critically evaluate geospatial analysis.

Analyzing Craters Using Satellite Imagery

This video provides a brief introduction to the process of analyzing craters using satellite imagery.


Past projects in the field of human rights

Remote Sensing for Human Rights Project

Case Studies List

With information from Physicians for Human Rights, AAAS acquired and analyzed multiple satellite images of a suspected mass grave site at Dasht-e Leili, Afghanistan. Analysis helped to determine the precise date of possible excavation of the grave, indicated by the presence of heavy earthmoving equipment at the site.
Report | Google Earth Layer

With information from the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF) AAAS located and analyzed multiple historical declassified US spy satellite imagery from the 1970s to help inform discussion and testimony on changes to landscapes dating from the ‘Dirty War’ period in Argentina.

The Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), with funding from the Oak Foundation, investigated reports of the destruction of Armenian cultural artifacts by Azerbaijan that occurred between 1998 and 2005.

At the request of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, AAAS analyzed time series imagery from NASA's Landsat satellites from 1987 to 2013 to document Land Cover and Land Use Change (LC/LUC) across the country of Bahrain. 
Report | Report (PDF)

With reporting from human rights organizations in Burma, AAAS analyzed images of Karen State to document the destruction of civilian infrastructure and the construction of military operation camps carried out by the ruling military government in Burma.
Report | Report (PDF) | Google Earth Layer 2007Google Earth Layer 2009

Democratic Republic of Congo
With information from Human Rights Watch and other sources, AAAS sought to document changes in villages over time and denote indications of mass violence using high resolution satellite imagery.
Report | Google Earth Layer

Democratic Republic of Congo: Evictions at Luiswishi Mine
At the request of Amnesty International’s Business and Human Rights Programme, AAAS investigated reports of forced evictions near the Luiswishi Mine in the Katanga Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Report | Report (PDF)

Ethiopia: Gambella
With information from Human Rights Watch, AAAS provided satellite imagery and analysis to document the relocation of rural agro-pastoralists to government planned villages in the Gambella region.
Report | Report (PDF)

Ethiopia: Ogaden
With information from Human Rights Watch, AAAS provided satellite imagery and analysis which corroborated reported attacks in civilians in the Ogaden region.

Based on media reporting and other information sources, AAAS acquired satellite imagery and conducted an extensive analysis which provided documentation of reported attacks on civilians during the conflict in South Ossetia from August 10-19, 2008.
Report | Report (PDF) | Google Earth Layer

Kenya: Waruku and Githogoro
At the request of Amnesty International, USA, AAAS investigated reports of forced evictions and demolition of structures in two areas of Kenya: Waruku and Githogoro. The analysis found no evidence of destruction in Waruku, but found that 156 structures had been removed between June 25, 2009 and September 22, 2009 in Githogoro.
Report | Report (PDF)

Kenya: Nairobi
At the request of Amnesty International, USA, investigated reports of forced relocations in Nairobi, Kenya, during 2011 - 2012. Analysis found that approximately 3,966 structures were demolished.
Report Report (PDF)

AAAS conducted a damage assessment of Osh, Kyrgyzstan at the request of Amnesty International, USA following reports of widespread burning and violence. The analysis found that several neighborhoods had been completely destroyed.
Report | Report (PDF)

AAAS attained and analyzed images of damage to civilian infrastructure in Southern Lebanon to assist Amnesty International’s examination of whether such destruction was deliberate and not merely “collateral damage.”
Report | Google Earth Layer

AAAS analyzed images of the city of Misurata, Libya to assess the damage caused by the conflict in March and April 2011.
Report | Report (PDF)

This technical report details AAAS’ investigation of forced evictions in Port Harcourt, conflict in the Niger Delta, communal conflict in Jos, and industrial gas flaring. Together these studies comprise the Eyes on Nigeria project, created in partnership with Amnesty International, USA.
Report | Report (PDF)

Working with Amnesty International, USA, AAAS obtained and analyzed data on human rights concerns in northwestern Pakistan. This data was developed into an online map server, allowing dynamic visualization and analysis via an advocacy web site, Eyes on Pakistan.

At the request of Amnesty International, USA, AAAS analyzed satellite imagery to examine incidents of reported violence in Mogadishu, Somalia between February 2007 and January 2010.
Report | Report (PDF)

Sri Lanka: 2009 Conflict
As the conflict in Sri Lanka during May 2009 drew to a close, AAAS responded to international concerns over civilian well-being in the Civilian Safety Zone (CSZ), and provided satellite imagery and analysis for the most intense time of the conflict.
Report | Google Earth Layer

Sri Lanka: Valikamam High Security Zone
At the request of the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice (SLC), the Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) acquired time series high-resolution satellite imagery of an area of Sri Lanka known as the Valikamam High Security Zone (HSZ) to determine what changes have taken place in the military zone since the end of the conflict in 2009.
Report Report (PDF)

Sudan: Chad and Sudan Using satellite imagery of this region, AAAS documented past attacks by the Sudanese government-backed Janjaweed militias against civilian communities in Darfur, Sudan and Chad and is developing methods for tracking current attacks.
Report | Google Earth Layer

Sudan: Negeha, Darfur
AAAS revisited Darfur, Sudan following reported attacks in the Negeha area. The analysis found burned structures and charred earth, corroborating reports of an attack in December 2010.
Report | Report (PDF) | Google Earth Layer

Sudan: Ulu, Blue Nile
AAAS investigated reports from Amnesty International, USA of increased fighting in the Sudanese border state of Blue Nile.
Report | Report (PDF)

Syria: Initial Conflict
At the request of Amnesty International, USA, AAAS acquired satellite imagery to investigate human rights-related reports stemming from the conflict in Aleppo, Syria in August 2012.
Report | Report (PDF) | Google Earth Layer

Syria: Aleppo Retrospective
AAAS acquired and analyzed satellite imagery covering covering Aleppo, Syria from August 2012-May 2013 to assess the continuing conflict, including: documentation of military vehicles and equipment, roadblocks, signs of damage and destruction, and damage to cultural sites.
Report | Report (PDF) | Google Earth Layer

Syria: Medical Facility Damage
At the request of Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), AAAS has undertaken an assessment of high-resolution satellite imagery to examine medical facilities across Syria. The purpose of the assessment was to verify reports of damage and destruction to the facilities.
Report 1 | Report 1 (PDF)
Report 2
Report 3

AAAS partnered with Crude Accountability and the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights to investigate the status of human rights and environmental concerns in Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan.
Report | Enivronmental Report (PDF) | Demolitions Report (PDF) | Google Earth Layer

Turkmenistan: Ovadan-Depe Prison
AAAS partnered with Crude Accountability to establish a timeline for the construction of the Ovadan-Depe prison, as well as evaluating, where possible, reports that its inmates are subjected to living conditions that violate their human rights. 
Report | Report (PDF)

Amnesty International requested assistance from AAAS to analyze satellite images of four communities in Zimbabwe – Porta Farms, Hatcliffe, Chitungwiza, and Killarney – affected by the government of Zimbabwe’s Operation Murambatsvina, a campaign begun in 2005 to destroy homes and business in allegedly “illegal settlements.”
Report | Google Earth Layer

Other Case Studies

Eritrea and Ethiopia
The State of Eritrea employed geospatial technologies to document alleged destruction of Eritrean public and private infrastructure by occupying Ethiopian forces in order to present an analysis to an international claims commission established at the Hague to settle claims disputes.

Gaza Strip
Human Rights Watch undertook a 2004 study to investigate the use of geospatial technologies in verifying the destruction by Israeli Defense Forces of housing and other infrastructure along the southern border of the Gaza Strip.
Summary | HRW Report

North Korea
The U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea published a 2003 extensive study on North Korea’s prison camp system that includes ex-prisoner testimonies corroborated with annotated high-resolution satellite images of the camps obtained from 2001 to 2003. In 2012, the USCHR produced a second edition of "The Hidden Gulag."
Summary | USCHR Report 2004 | USCHR-NK 2012.