Christoph Koettl is the Emergency Response Manager at Amnesty International USA and works on urgent human rights situations such as armed conflicts and large scale repressions of civil society. In his work he focuses on exploring the intersection of technology and human rights and specializes in utilizing geospatial technologies such as satellite imagery or interactive maps for human rights research and advocacy.
He previously worked and studied in Austria, the Netherlands and Italy and holds an MA in International Relations from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His expertise is in International Humanitarian Law, conflict analysis, crisis mapping, video validation and social media forensics and he is a regular speaker on technology and human rights. He has testified on war crimes in Sri Lanka before the United States Congress and his work is covered regularly by numerous national and international media, including Associated Press, BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera and Reuters.
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A cellphone can be both a powerful tool and a huge risk for human rights activists. Images and videos captured through mobile phones can reveal police brutality or even war crimes, as the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa have shown.
During Hurricane Sandy, NPR posted this image showing soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery guarding the tomb of the unknown soldiers. Though the outlet reported it was taken during the storm, it was actually taken several weeks before (Photo Credit: NPR).
A few days ago, the Afghan government published an investigation into an airstrike by international forces on January 15, 2014, that reportedly killed several Afghan civilians. The investigation relied heavily on photographs and a video showing the aftermath of the strike.
The massive displacement crisis stemming from Syria’s ongoing conflict is increasingly visible from space. Satellite images on Google Earth reveal the growth of what in some cases looks like the emergence of whole new cities over the last two years.
A new project published today by one of our volunteers, Richard Cozzens, presents some of the most compelling images, providing a grim snapshot of the dire humanitarian situation in and around Syria. The satellite images show camps in the countries that are most affected by the influx of refugees, such as Turkey and Jordan. For example, what was an empty spot in the desert in September 2011 is now the huge refugee camp Zaatari in Jordan.
Click to explore the new satellite images. (c) Google Earth. Image (c) DigitalGlobe2013.
“After a night of ‘servicing’ the officials, the women had to die because the secret could not get out. This happens at most of the political prison camps.” - Mr. Lee, a former security official who has never spoken publicly before, in an interview with Amnesty International in November 2013
New satellite images further expose North Korea’s vast system of political prison camps – which I previously dubbed “The forgotten prisons” – whose very existence authorities continue to deny categorically. Contrary to heeding the growing international calls to close the camps, authorities continue to invest in the infrastructure of repression, perpetuating the systematic, widespread and grave violation of human rights.
This week could be the tipping point for the human rights and humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic, which continues to spin out of control. With the situation worsening on a daily basis, including extrajudicial killings and rape, the U.N. Security Council will meet Thursday to vote on a resolution related to the deployment of peacekeeping forces to the country.
This vote presents a unique opportunity to start pulling the country back from the brink. However, public pressure is needed over the following days to demand a robust peacekeeping force with a strong human rights mandate to protect civilians, including many Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees. We are thus calling on the decision makers in France, the UK and the U.S. to support our demands. You can participate in this campaigning push through our global Twitter action that accompanies our media, lobby and field work.
In the Bouca area, approximately 485 structures—represented here by yellow dots—appear burned in imagery from November 2013. Image (c) DigitalGlobe 2013.
“These new images offer a glimpse of physical scarring to homes and civic life visible from space, but the true scale of the human impact of the crisis cannot be captured by satellite.” - Aster van Kregten, Deputy Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.
Expert analysis of new satellite imagery we have obtained from the Central African Republic (CAR) reveals the shocking aftermath of recent human rights abuses amid spiraling violence by armed groups and security forces.
The images - some less than a week old - include evidence of 485 homes being torched in Bouca as well as internally displaced persons (IDPs) massing near the town of Bossangoa as people flee the ongoing violence.
12 Months of Deadly Conflict in Alepp. Explore the interactive timeline that include satellite images, citizen video and field research.
In one of the most comprehensive satellite image analysis of an active conflict zone ever conducted by a non-governmental actor, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today released a detailed damage assessment of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. The impressive survey is a follow up to a September 2012 analysis by AAAS that showed the first impacts of the armed conflict on the densely populated area of Aleppo, and comes exactly a year after Amnesty International issued an urgent warning about the increased risk to civilians in the city.
By documenting the vast damage to Aleppo’s infrastructure since that warning, the newly released analysis by AAAS – pursued in collaboration with the Science for Human Rights program of Amnesty International – leaves little question as to a significant cause for the staggering displacement of half of the city’s population: a campaign of indiscriminate air bombardment by government forces, which have also reduced entire areas to rubble and killed and maimed countless civilians.
The conversation provides several examples of how social media has been used as a tactic by various human rights organizations and other NGOs. Examples from Amnesty International include our Bahrain Twitter action or Eyes on Syria campaign and use of a YouTube playlist in our campaign to establish a Commission of Inquiry on human rights violations in North Korea. Other case studies come from Greenpeace and El Salvador, among others. A current case study – which is still unfolding – is the #SaveBeatriz campaign.
Satellite image of likely LRA camp in Kafia Kingi. Click to see full image . (Photo Credit: Digitial Globe 2013).
Now where will the US go on the ICC? While international justice has seen many milestones over the last months, including the surrender of “The Terminator” Bosco Ntaganda, one of the most well known fugitives from the International Criminal Court (ICC) remains on the loose. Joseph Kony, the Lord Resistance Army’s (LRA) notorious leader, has so far evaded arrest. However, as of today, attempts to locate his whereabouts have gotten a considerable boost. In fact, thanks to satellite imagery, we might know the exact coordinates of his recent location.
This posting is part of the North Korea Revealedblogging series, published in the context of efforts to establish a Commission of Inquiry at the current session of the UN Human Rights Council (February 25 – March 22). Join the conversation through #NKRevealed.
With overwhelming support from member states, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva today established a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the deplorable human rights conditions in North Korea. Today’s development should be considered a milestone for international justice. While an independent investigation will not yield the ultimate impact we want—the much-needed closure of the political prison camps—it represents a crucial first step in uncovering the widespread and systematic nature of the crimes, and could ultimately lead to holding the perpetrators accountable. As an immediate impact, the commission has the potential to pressure North Korean officials to end their outright denial of the existence of the camps. We heavily campaigned for this outcome over the last few months – by putting the vast network of political prison camps on the map, uncovering a new security zone next to the infamous Camp 14, and most importantly, by sharing the powerful stories of survivors of the forgotten prisons, with the world.