Monday, June 16, 2008

Satellite pictures tell of human rights violation

The term 'the morality of altitude' was coined to apply to bomber pilots who released their payloads on victims they couldn't see, without ever feeling any sense of remorse or empathy for the people whose lives, families, homes and property they destroyed.

A new initiative by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, publisher of the journal Science could well give the term a completely opposite and far more positive meaning.

A project launched by the AAAS aims to use satellite imagery to provide evidence of human rights atrocities that have been denied by the governments that perpetrate them.

The AAAS worked with Human Rights Watch to produce a 130-page report on attacks on eight villages across the remote Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia, where "before" and "after" satellite images of villages identified by Human Rights Watch were analysed by Lars Bromley of the AAAS.

It's confronting read, but the really damning evidence lies in the 'before' and 'after' images, which show blackened fields and destroyed homes where before there were whole villages.

HRW's Peter Bouckaert said that the project was in response to frequent denials by the Ethiopian government that the massacres were happening at all.

"The Ethiopian authorities frequently dismiss human rights reports, saying that the witnesses we interviewed are liars and rebel supporters," Mr Bouckaert said. "But it will be much more difficult for them to dismiss the evidence presented in the satellite images, as images like that don't lie."



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