Much of what happens in North Korea remains hidden from the outside world. But commercial satellite imagery and Google Earth mapping software are helping a human-rights organization take inventory of the worst offenses of the North Korean regime and identify sites for future investigation of crimes against humanity.
A new report from the South Korea-based Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG)â€”a non-governmental organization that tracks human-rights abuses and crimes against humanity by the world’s most oppressive regimesâ€”details how the organization’s researchers used Google Earth in interviews with defectors from North Korea to identify sites associated with mass killings by the North Korean regime. Google Earth imagery was used to help witnesses to killings and mass burials orient themselves and precisely point out the locations of those events.
Entitled â€œMapping Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea: Mass Graves, Killing Sites and Documentary Evidence,â€ the report does not include the actual locations of what the researchers deemed to be sensitive sites out of concern that the North Korean regime would move evidence from those sites. But it does provide location data of other sites with potential documentary evidence of crimes, including police stations and other government facilities that may have records of atrocities.
The report is an early set of findings from the Mapping Project, an effort by TJWG to identify sites ofÂ abuses over the past two decades based on eyewitness testimony and satellite imagery. The project also wants to examine remote sensing technologies that could be used in the future to detect and analyze sites in North Korea containing human remains.
“Although it is beyond our current capabilities to investigate and analyze the sites due to lack of access,” the researchers noted, “this research is a crucial first step in the pursuit of accountability for human rights crimes. It is also designed to serve first responders [NGO workers, forensic scientists, journalists, and others] who may enter North Korea in the future.”
Efforts to bring charges against North Korea’s regime in the International Criminal Court have been held up by resistance in the United Nations from China and Russia. However, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea (UN COI) continues to bring attention to abuses by the North Korean regime, and it has called for measures to be taken to end human rights abuses and hold those responsible for the abuse accountable. And the UN COI continues to gather evidence in a repository for use in a future process. TJWG believes the Mapping Project could significantly aid the push to hold the North Korean regime accountable while aiding “future efforts to institute a process of transitional justice following a change in the political conditions in North Korea.” In other words, the project could aid in prosecution after a regime change.
While the Mapping Project is still in its early stages, TJWG released the report to “attract wider participation from both informants and technical practitioners with expertise and knowledge that will advance the project,” the researchers said.
Listing image by US Department of Defense
from Ars Technica http://ift.tt/2vD4sJ9