The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP), through the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s analysis of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery captured 15 April 2012, has found evidence of the destruction of key oil pipeline infrastructure in Heglig, South Kordofan, Sudan. SSP has also found cratering consistent with bombardment of some form visible in close proximity to nearby oil pipeline and oil production facilities. SSP cannot make a determination based on the evidence currently available as to either who destroyed the object consistent with an oil.
The Satellite Sentinel Project, or SSP, has released a report on the pilot phase which began in December 2010 and concluded 1 June 2012. This report contains highlights over the past 18 months including a summary of operations, and satellite imagery. With the completion of the pilot phase of SSP on 1 June 2012, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) concluded its participation in SSP. HHI has transitioned out of SSP, launching the Signal Program on Human Security and Technology with the aim of establishing the first codified technical standards and professional ethics for crisis mapping.
The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has confirmed through the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s analysis of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery that Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) have deployed a significantly increased number of combat capable air assets within range of South Sudan’s border and territory. SSP has documented evidence consistent with reported aerial bombardment in close proximity to a strategic bridge located in Unity State, South Sudan. SAF spokesman al-Sawarmi Khaled Saad denied Sudan’s involvement in the bombings.
Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP), through HHI’s analysis of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery, has confirmed that at least a battalion sized unit of Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) appear to control the main route civilians reportedly use to flee South Kordofan for Yida refugee camp. The interior of the apparent base, which is located in the town of Toroge, contains objects consistent with 80 to 90 tent-like structures, infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), artillery, and heavy armor vehicles, which appear to be main battle tanks. In Siege: Evidence of SAF Encirclement of the Kauda Valley released 25 January 2012, SSP reported that the SAF had restricted access to the road leading towards South Sudan from South Kordofan. The imagery in this report specifically identifies a new fortified chokepoint along that road under apparent SAF control, which was established sometime after 23 November 2011.
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.
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.
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.
Al Shabaab's horrific attack of the Westgate Mall in Nairobi generated over 730,000 tweets during the four-day siege in Spetember 2013. The purpose of this study is to analyze the authors, content and frequency of these tweets in the hour leading up to the attacks and during the two hours after the onslaught began. The Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) partnered with GNIP to collect the 730,000+ tweets within hours of the attack unfolding. QCRI Research Assistants Ms. Brittany Card and Ms. Justine MacKinnon carried out the subsequent categorization and analysis of tweets under the guidance of QCRI's Director of Social Innovation, Dr. Patrick Meier.
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.
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.
During armed conflict in East and Central Africa civilian dwellings are intentionally targeted and razed. These traditional civilian dwellings are known as tukuls which are primarily mud and thatch huts.
The intentional destruction of these dwellings, given their prevalence in these regions, is often one of the only available indicators of the intentional targeting of civilians observable in satellite imagery.
This field has lacked accepted methodologies for performing this type of analysis. This guide is the first to focus on tukuls because they are a uniquely valuable metric for both documenting attacks on civilians during armed conflicts and assessing potential mass displacement that can result from these incidents.
This guide is the second in a series of Satellite Imagery Interpretation Guides. Future satellite imagery interpretation guides from the Signal Program may focus on other, related phenomena and structures present in similar operational contexts.
Satellite Imagery Interpretation Guide: Displaced Population Camps is intended to help address the absence of public and standardized training resources for those seeking to use high resolution satellite imagery in support of refugee/IDP assistance operations. Students, general audiences, and volunteers studying and analyzing satellite imagery of displaced population camps may find this training resource beneficial.
The guide provides case studies of displaced population camps in East Africa and the Middle East. Dimensions, colors, shapes, and, when possible, unique identifying features of objects, including civilian shelters and humanitarian agency infrastructure, visible in high resolution imagery of the camps are identified. Objects are organized according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs humanitarian cluster system and three other categories unique to this guide. Imagery provided by Google's Skybox Imaging for the creation of this guide can be explored online by following the directions included inside the report.
At present, accepted methodologies for wind disaster damage assessments rely almost exclusively on responders having ground access to the affected area to document damage to housing structures. This approach can prove both time consuming and inefficient, and does not support the use of drones and satellites.
Geospatially-based damage assessments offer potential improvements to this process in terms of providing responding agencies with previously unavailable information about hard to reach, often non-permissive environments, at a scale and speed not possible through ground-based counts of damaged structures.
This guide provides the first standard method for conducting these types of damage assessments through the analysis of drone and satellite imagery. The “BAR Methodology” has been developed by the Signal Program on Human Security and Technology at HHI to address this critical gap in this evolving area humanitarian practice.