How geospatial technology is exposing atrocities and breaches of international humanitarian law in war zones
Technology can expose human rights violations in conflict areas, but associated policy must be carefully thought through, Renata Sivacolundhu writes.
In 1995, classified satellite imagery revealing evidence of mass killings of civilians in Srebrenica was tabled in the United Nations Security Council by the then US Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright. It had the desired impact. The imagery changed the narrative of the conflict and Bosnian Serb leaders Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic were called to appear before an international tribunal for egregious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.
More recently, satellite images confirmed worst fears that Syrias Temple of Bel had been destroyed in a flagrant violation of the laws of armed conflict regarding the protection of cultural property. Images from hotspots all around the globe have been used by advocates to focus the worlds attention on major human rights violations, from Nigeria to North Korea. The International Committee of the Red Cross, UN agencies and relief organisations, see such new technologies as presenting opportunities for improving humanitarian action, by mapping needs and better analysing the environment in which they work.
But how effective can geospatial technology be in exposing and prosecuting breaches of international humanitarian law? What policy guidance is required to ensure this technology is being applied in conformity with humanitarian principles? And could this technology influence national and regional policy vis a vis the Responsibility to Protect?
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