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Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights: Case Studies

AAAS Case Studies | Other Case Studies

An important component of the AAAS Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project is the dissemination of information resources on geospatial technology applications for the human rights community. In addition to the work AAAS has been conducting in this area, we will describe and link to the work of others in the field. Below is a sampling of case studies summarizing AAAS work and the work of others involved with geospatial technologies and human rights. In some cases, high-resolution satellite imagery and other information gathered during these efforts are also available as geospatial visualization layers, such as Google Earth layers.

AAAS Case Studies


With information from Physcians 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 | Visualization Layers


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.
Report | Visualization Layers


Based on reports of the destruction of Armenian cultural artifacts, AAAS conducted imagery analysis of a medieval cemetery in Nakhchivan. Image analysis showed that the ancient burial monuments had been destroyed at some time between 2003 and 2009.


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) | Visualization Layers

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 | Imagery Characteristics | Visualization Layers

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 | Imagery Characteristics | Visualization Layers

Ogaden, Ethiopia

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

Gambella, Ethiopia

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.


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.


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.


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 | Visualization Layers


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

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.


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.


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.
Report | Visualization Layers


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.

South Ossetia

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) | Visualization Layers

Sri Lanka

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 | Visualization Layers


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 | Visualization Layers


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 | Imagery Characteristics | Visualization Layers

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.
Summary | USCHR Report

Contact Us: To learn more about this project or to submit a request for assistance with a potential human rights related case study.

(page updated 03/22/2011)