• Human Rights

Amnesty International Platform: Darfur, Sudan

An interactive tool designed to aid in the reporting of the use of chemical warfare on civilians in Jebel Marra, one of the most remote regions of Darfur.

Collaborators

 

SITU Research’s work with Amnesty International’s Crisis Division documents scorched earth and chemical weapons attacks against civilians in the Jebel Marra, Sudan. The PLATFORM, launched in coordination with Amnesty’s address on the humanitarian situation in Sudan to the United Nations press corps, was designed to present multiple forms of visual evidence to viewers, policy makers, and advocates. As one of the most remote regions in Sudan, the Jebel Marra is an incredibly difficult environment for human rights advocates, expert investigators, and independent humanitarian actors to conduct their work. SITU’s work sought to address this problem set while building on the research of Amnesty investigators conducting their research remotely.

 

Access the interactive platform here: http://darfurconflict2016.amnesty.org

This project sets important precedent as part of a reinvigoration of advocacy efforts in Sudan. The platform draws much needed attention to ongoing human rights offensive through documentation, interaction, and visualization. Since January 2016, Sudanese government forces have been waging a large-scale military campaign in the Jebel Marra region, launching both ground and air offensives against villages thought to be home to members of the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid. Documented attacks have continued through September 2016. These attacks have proven to impact civilian populations in the region, killing and displacing thousands. The attacks amount to war crimes and are also documented in Amnesty’s full length report on the ongoing crisis in Darfur.

 
Satellite imagery taken on April 6, 2016 documenting village destruction and scorched earth in Bourgu
 

This project marks the first time that Amnesty has published findings from an entirely remote investigation. Information on these attacks and the situation on the ground for civilians in the Jebel Marra is difficult to obtain and challenging to vet. The investigation was conducted from afar and is the result of 231 phone and internet interviews, and analyses of available satellite imagery. Presented with photos taken on the ground in Jebel Marra, this evidence is being shared to call for further investigation and action to protect civilian populations there.

 

Remotely sensed data plays an especially central role in documentation efforts in this project. Jebel Marra spans around 5,000 square kilometers, and is home to approximately 1,500 dispersed villages and hamlets. Without ground access to the villages under attack, investigators relied on imagery captured before and after documented attack dates to see scorched earth attacks in the historical record. Without other visual sources for narrative of attack events at the village- or smaller, personal-scales, Amnesty and SITU created the only such evidentiary narrative of these attacks with the satellite imagery at hand. The platform maps 171 attacked and damaged villages confirmed by Amnesty Investigators through satellite analysis.

 

Photos, testimony, and satellite imagery can be accessed and viewed on a map in the platform design by SITU

SITU designed an interactive reporting platform that both maps the entirety of attacked villages in the satellite record and allows for a deeper investigation of attacks around which there’s more robust visual and textual documentation. The attack sites with more documentation include alleged chemical weapons attacks, the photographic material for which is graphic and needed to be presented with sensitivity to audience safety and safety of those on the ground in Sudan.

 

The first page of the platform documents 171 attacked or destroyed villages in the Jebel Marra that can be confirmed via satellite imagery analysis

The Overview page of the platform introduces users to the interface, a map of the region of Jebel Marra on which the 171 attacked and damaged villages that are confirmed via satellite analysis are mapped. Underlying data about the attacks includes the reported date of attack where available. Available documentation varies for each of the 171 sites, with only 16 containing testimony text and before and after satellite imagery, even fewer still have photo documentation of attacks.

 

Before and after satellite imagery can be viewed and compared with a swipe tool on the platform

The Burned Village page presents testimony text, before and after satellite imagery, and photos where available for 16 scorched earth attack sites. The data, accessible via click on village location in the map on this page, is the most recent and available information on the events. The villages featured on this page were selected for the completeness of the visual and textual evidence documenting the attacks that took place at each respective location.

 

The Chemical Weapons page of the platform presents testimony text and photos documenting alleged chemical weapons attacks on civilians

Mapping available photos to village locations, the Chemical Weapons page of the platform documents the effects of three alleged chemical weapons attacks on civilians in the Jebel Marra, predominantly children. Amnesty international documented alleged chemical weapons attacks in and around at least 32 villages in the region for their long-form report.

 

This collaboration aims to engage international leaders, human rights organizations, and the broader public with the realities of Sudan's continued civil war, prompting international action and spurring greater accountability. This project is part of SITU’s Spatial Practice as Evidence and Advocacy (SPEA) project, which seeks to utilize spatial analysis and visualization in the service of human rights fact-finding and reporting. The work of SPEA is funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Oak Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations.