Brittany Card and Isaac L. Baker. 11/2014. “GRID: A Methodology Integrating Witness Testimony and Satellite Imagery Analysis for Documenting Alleged Mass Atrocities .” Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal, 8, 3, Pp. 49-61.Abstract

This article documents the development and initial use case of the GRID (Ground Reporting through Imagery Delivery) methodology by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI). GRID was created to support corroboration of witness testimony of mass atrocity related-events using satellite imagery analysis. A repeating analytic limitation of employing imagery for this purpose is that differences in the geographic knowledge of a witness and an imagery analyst can limit or impede corroboration.

Stephen Wilkinson. 2/2014. "Finding the Facts": Standards of Proof and Information Handling in Monitoring, Reporting and Fact-Finding Missions . Read PublicationAbstract

This paper sets out various dilemmas faced by practitioners undertaking fact-finding missions, based on a desk analysis and extensive interviews with expert practitioners. The paper addresses the challenges, both practical and theoretical, related to standards of proof and information collection and suggests policy options that might be pursued moving forward.

Claude Bruderlein and Rob Grace. 1/2013. Monitoring, Reporting, and Fact-finding in Bahrain and Syria During the Arab Spring.Abstract

The way in which international actors implement monitoring, reporting, and fact finding (MRF) mechanisms is changing. Modern MRF mechanisms date back to 1913, when, after the Balkans had erupted in war for the second time in two years, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace initiated a commission to investigate potential violations of international law. But the Carnegie Endowment did not begin its work until fighting had ceased, believing, as the mission’s final report notes, that a mission initiated before the conflict’s conclusion would be “premature.” In contrast, almost a century later, as massive protests erupted in numerous autocratic Arab countries in 2011, international actors felt no need to hesitate. Instead, MRF actors initiated MRF missions to examine potential violations of international law in Yemen, Libya, Syria, and Bahrain, all contexts in which violent conflicts continued to unfurl, as well as Tunisia and Egypt, where massive protests had recently led to transfers of political power. These missions represent a trend in the world of MRF toward more rapid deployment.


Nathaniel A. Raymond, Brittany Card, and Isaac L. Baker. 11/2014. “A New Forensics: Developing Standard Remote Sensing Methodologies to Detect and Document Mass Atrocities .” Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal, 8, 3, Pp. 33-48.Abstract

The aim of this article is to highlight potential methods applicable to a standard forensic approach for the analysis of high-resolution satellite imagery that may contain evidence of alleged mass atrocities. The primary method employed is the retrospective analysis of a case study involving the use of high-resolution satellite imagery analysis to document alleged mass atrocities. The case study utilized herein is the Satellite Sentinel Project’s reporting on the May 2011 sacking of Abyei Town by Government of Sudan-aligned armed actors. In the brief case study, categories of objects, patterns of activities, and types of alleged mass atrocity events are applied the Abyei Town incident.

Ben Yunmo Wang, Gabrielle Gould, Nathaniel Raymond, and Isaac Baker. 10/2013. “Problems from Hell, Solution in the Heavens?: Identifying Obstacles and Opportunities for Employing Geospatial Technologies to Document and Mitigate Mass Atrocities.” Stability: International Journal of Security and Development, 2, 3. Read PublicationAbstract

At the evolving frontier of modern humanitarianism, non-governmental organizations are using satellite technology to monitor mass atrocities. As a documentation tool, satellites have the potential to collect important real-time evidence for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. However, the field remains experimental and ill-defined, while useful court evidence cannot be produced without a standard methodology and code of ethics. In this paper, members of the groundbreaking Satellite Sentinel Project review the historical development of satellite documentation and some of its landmark projects, and propose necessary measures to advance the field forward.

Cynthia Petrigh. 2/2014. Protection of Witnesses, Victims and Staff in Monitoring, Reporting, and Fact-Finding Mechanisms . Read PublicationAbstract

One dilemma that faces practitioners serving on monitoring, reporting, and fact-finding (MRF) missions concerns the protection of witnesses, victims, and staff. The paradox underlying the issue of protection is that, while statements from witnesses and victims account for the predominant evidence when investigating human rights violations, the very fact that victims and witnesses decide to come forward and contribute to the establishment of the truth can put these individuals at risk. Another dilemma emanates from the ad hoc nature of such missions, in contrast with the need to ensure protection on a long-term scale. In the often-volatile contexts in which MRF missions typically operate, security risks also arise for MRF staff members participating in on-the-ground operations. This paper analyzes how past MRF missions, whether commissioned by ad hoc bodies or by the UN, have grappled with these risks. The paper examines the sources of the obligations to protect witnesses, victims, and staff; the nature of the threats that could arise; the protective steps that have been taken; and the measures that could be taken by MRF professionals in the future. As this paper demonstrates, often a divide exists between aspirational notions of best practice and the reality of what can be delivered, leaving MRF practitioners frequently uncertain about the lengths and limits of their protective responsibilities.

Rob Grace. 8/2014. Recommendations and Follow-Up Measures in Monitoring, Reporting, and Fact-Finding Missions. Read PublicationAbstract
This paper examines follow-up measures that have been undertaken in the wake of reports published by monitoring, reporting, and fact-finding missions tasked to investigate alleged violations of international humanitarian law and human rights. Section 1 explores the perspectives of both MRF practitioners and scholars on the importance of recommendations offered in MRF reports. Section 2 examines the impacts that MRF practitioners seek to achieve. Section 3 provides an overview of the methodological dilemmas of assessing the outcomes of MRF work. Section 4 presents an assessment of the implementation of recommendations articulated in reports of fifteen MRF missions implemented over the course of the past decade. Section 5 examines the factors that shape practitioners’ decisions about crafting recommendations in MRF reports. Section 6 posits questions for practitioners and policy actors to consider as part of the ongoing discourse regarding devising MRF methodologies, learning lessons from past MRF experiences, and building a community of practice among MRF practitioners.
Brittany Card, Ziad Al Achkar, Nathaniel A. Raymond, Benjamin I. Davies, and Isaac L. Baker. 7/2013. “While We Watched: Assessing the Impact of the Satellite Sentinel Project.” The Georgetown Journal of International Affairs.Abstract

The Georgetown Journal of International Affairs published an article authored by Signal Program staff in which they detail the technology, perceived impact and lessons learned from running operations for the Satellite Sentinel Project. This inside assessment of the Satellite Sentinel Project has been offered open source by the journal in order to inform humanitarian practitioners, scholars and the public.

Patrick Kroker. 12/2014. Emerging Issues Facing the Use of Remote Sensing Evidence for International Criminal Justice .Abstract

Remote sensing can provide unique, sometimes otherwise unavailable, information about human rights violations occurring in non-permissive environments, over large geographic areas, and across long and multiple timeframes. The evidentiary potential of RS analysis currently appears not to be fully exploited by international criminal justice mechanisms. The purpose of this paper is (A) to illustrate the nature of RS analysis and its evidentiary potential and limitations, (B) to identify the key, repeating factors across regional and cultural contexts and types of crimes that influence its limited use in court, and (C) to explore steps and strategies for overcoming the challenges. 

Rob Grace. 12/2014. “From Design to Implementation: The Interpretation of Fact-finding Mandates .” Journal of Conflict and Security Law, 20, 1, Pp. 27-60. Read PublicationAbstract

The mandate interpretation process is crucial to the implementation of fact-finding missions geared toward investigating alleged violations of international law, including human rights, international criminal law, and international humanitarian law. However, many disagreements exist about how fact-finding practitioners should weigh different factors in their mandate interpretation processes. This article—based in part on extensive interviews conducted by the author with fact-finding practitioners—examines areas of methodological agreement and disagreement, trends of professional decision making, and normative perceptions that practitioners hold about best practices regarding the interpretation of fact-finding mandates. Overall, the article aims to highlight points of convergence and divergence between past professional experiences and to illuminate the benefits and risks of different methodological choices.

Rob Grace. 12/2013. The Design and Planning of Monitoring, Reporting, and Fact-Finding Missions . Read PublicationAbstract

The design and planning process is crucial to the implementation of monitoring, reporting, and fact-finding (MRF) mechanisms geared toward investigating violations of international law, including human rights, international criminal law, and international humanitarian law. However, many disagreements exist about how MRF actors should weigh different factors in their design and planning decision-making processes. This paper — to provide a point of reference indicating the implications of different methodological choices — examines areas of methodological agreement and disagreement, trends of professional decision-making, and normative perceptions that practitioners hold about best practices regarding the design and planning of MRF mechanisms. Based on an assessment of fifteen MRF missions implemented over the past decade, this paper analyzes how commissioners on these missions interpreted the mission’s investigative scope, examines the factors that guided decisions about the activities that the mission would undertake, and offers an overview of common staffing dilemmas. Overall, the paper aims to present a portrait of the state of MRF practice, in terms of how practitioners approach fulfilling their mandates.

Rob Grace. 7/2014. Communication and Report Drafting in Monitoring, Reporting, and Fact-Finding Mechanisms . Read PublicationAbstract

This working paper examines how monitoring, reporting, and fact-finding (MRF) missions have responded to challenges regarding public communication and report drafting. Overall, the paper aims to present a portrait of the views and practices of the MRF community — as well as the implications of different approaches — regarding transparency. What should MRF practitioners communicate publicly? What information should be kept private? When a mission does communicate publicly, how should practitioners do so? What factors should shape practitioners’ communications strategies? How should these factors influence the ways that practitioners approach drafting MRF reports? This paper examines these questions, which — given that the effectiveness of an MRF mission hinges on the ability of commissioners to foster positive public perceptions of the mission’s credibility — are crucial to the overall success of the domain of MRF.

Jocelyn Kelly and Beth Maclin. 4/2014. Assessing the Impact of Programming to Reduce the Stigmatization of Survivors of Sexual Violence in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.Abstract

This project rigorously evaluated programming that addresses stigma against survivors. In this program evaluation, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s Women in War program worked with the Congolese NGO, Centre d’Assistance Medico-Psychosociale (CAMPS) to assess which parts of their programming are most effective and how to continue to improve services related to reducing stigma. 

Tilly Alcayna. 1/2016. “Slum socio-ecology: an exploratory characterisation of vulnerability to climate-change related disasters in the urban context”.Abstract

As cities, especially coastal megacities, continue to grow often through rapid unplanned urbanization, populations are increasingly concentrated in climate change-affected hazard-prone spaces. How these populations interact with their environments will ultimately influence their vulnerability to climate-related disaster. Yet the interdependence between human and environmental systems, especially in the urban slum context, is under-researched and represents an important gap in our understanding. Using a socio-ecological system approach provides a holistic framework to understand vulnerability.