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Satellites for Human Rights

November 24, 2009

Satellite imagery helps human rights teams assess destruction in war-torn regions of the world.


Science and human rights…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

When violence breaks out in a region and civilians are killed, it’s often dangerous for human rights teams to assess the destruction first-hand. That’s where satellite imagery can help. This year, villages in the remote Busurungi area of the Democratic Republic of Congo were attacked by armed rebels. Geographer Lars Bromley of the AAAS Science and Human Rights Program and his team compared satellite images from before and after the attack. They identified nearly 1,500 destroyed structures in a 100 square kilometer area.
LARS BROMLEY (AAAS Science and Human Rights Program):
We’re able to quantify things like what might have caused the destruction, in this case, everything was pretty much burned down, which you can pretty much identify in the imagery.

He says AAAS has partnered with human rights organizations to document atrocities in high-conflict regions from Zimbabwe to Burma since 2006. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.