Employing Moderate Resolution Sensors in Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Monitoring
Marx, Andrew J.
Goward, Samuel N.
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Organizations concerned with human rights are increasingly using remote sensing as a tool to improve their detection of human rights and international humanitarian law violations. However, as these organizations have transitioned to human rights monitoring campaigns conducted over large regions and extended periods of time, current methods of using fine- resolution sensors and manpower-intensive analyses have become cost- prohibitive. To support the continued growth of remote sensing in human rights and international humanitarian law monitoring campaigns, this study researches how moderate resolution land observatories can provide complementary data to operational human rights monitoring efforts. This study demonstrates the capacity of moderate resolutions to provide data to monitoring efforts by developing an approach that uses Landsat Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) as part of a system for the detection of village destruction in Darfur, Sudan. Village destruction is an indicator of a human rights or international humanitarian law violations in Darfur during the 2004 study period. This analysis approach capitalizes on Landsat's historical archive and systematic observations by constructing a historic spectral baseline for each village in the study area that supports automated detection of a potentially destroyed village with each new overpass of the sensor. Using Landsat's near-infrared band, the approach demonstrates high levels of accuracy when compared with a U.S. government database documenting destroyed villages. This approach is then applied to the Darfur conflict from 2002 to 2008, providing new data on when and where villages were destroyed in this widespread and long-lasting conflict. This application to the duration of a real-world conflict illustrates the abilities and shortcomings of moderate resolution sensors in human rights monitoring efforts. This study demonstrates that moderate resolution satellites have the capacity to contribute complementary data to operational human rights monitoring efforts. While this study validates this capacity for the burning of villages in arid environments, this approach can be generalized to detect other human rights violations if an observable signal that represents the violation is identified.