The use of satellite imagery in the fight against human rights violations is both important and fascinating. Amnesty International explains the power of technology like this:
Importantly for efforts to secure justice and accountability for the gravest of crimes under international law, remote sensing is replicable, and offers evidentiary value as we move closer toward a system of international justice that minimizes impunity for these grave crimes. These relatively new data – such as remote sensing data and corresponding analysis – cannot be intimidated or threatened, and enjoy permanence that allows for even retrospective documentation.
Remote Sensing for Human Rights, Amnesty International
This technology was used to examine political prison labor camps in North Korea and produced hard evidence that the camps are not being shut down, as promised by the North Korean government. In fact, they appear to be growing in size.
The report contains copies of images and detailed analysis of those images. It also presents information from survivors, including the following:
According to testimonies from former inmates in kwanliso 15, all inmates were subject to forced labour for between 10 to 12 hours daily in dangerous conditions in the production facilities, mines, logging and farming. Failure to meet the work quotas could lead to reduction or discontinuation of food rations. According to a couple, Kim and Lee (full names withheld), who were detained in kwanliso 15 between 1999 and 2001,
“We worked in the farms (at kwanliso 15) from 7am to 8pm. We cultivated corn. We were divided to work in units comprising 10-15 people each. We were given a daily production target that we had to meet. If the unit did not meet the daily target, the unit-members were punished collectively. During the course of our three-year detention, often we did not meet our targets because we were always hungry and weak. We were punished with beatings and also reductions in our food quota. In addition to that, in the Ideology Struggle Sessions that were held after work, those who did not meet the target were severely criticized and beaten by other inmates.”
According to prison official Mr. Lee who worked in kwanliso 16, inmates used to spend most of their time working in dangerous conditions, were overworked and had very little time to rest. In most cases, they had to work until they fulfilled their work quotas. After their work, they had to attend self-criticism meetings. Only after these meetings were they allowed to rest; mostly between 12 midnight and 4am. He had witnessed accidents in the work place, many of which were fatal.
The same imagery was combined with Tomnod crowd sourcing to identify locations of illegal fishing on Lake Malta, known for rampant human rights violations, including a disturbingly large number of of child slaves.
Visit Tomnod to participate in currently running crowd sourced projects or review the results of past campaigns.