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Satellite images obtained by AAAS program provide strong evidence of Zimbabwe repression

WASHINGTON, D.C.--Satellite images captured under a pioneering program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) provide powerful evidence that the government of Zimbabwe has destroyed an entire settlement and relocated thousands of residents as part of a campaign against political opponents.

The images, analyzed by the AAAS staff, show two views of the settlement of Porta Farm, located just west of the Zimbabwean capital of Harare. The first, an archived image from June 2002, shows an intact settlement with more than 850 homes and other buildings; an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 people lived in Porta Farm at the time. The second photo, taken by satellite on 6 April this year, shows that the settlement has been leveled.

The pictures were released Wednesday 31 May as central evidence in a report compiled by the international secretariat of Amnesty International in London and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), based in Harare. The report, Shattered Lives: The Case of Porta Farm, views the destruction of the settlement and the forced relocation of its residents as emblematic of a broad campaign by the government of President Robert Mugabe to repress political opposition.

The photos of Porta Farm were collected under a new AAAS program that is exploring how satellite imagery and other cutting-edge geospatial technologies can be used to assess potential human rights violations and prevent new ones before they develop.

We believe this technology will become a critical tool for human rights organizations worldwide, said Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of the journal Science. By using new technology to systematically analyze satellite images and geospatial data, AAAS researchers were able to help Amnesty International and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights document the destruction of Porta Farm. The satellite images show the technology has enormous potential for help
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30-May-2006


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