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Satellite images show destroyed and threatened villages in Darfur

A pioneering AAAS program that provides technical expertise to human rights groups is helping Amnesty International USA with a new online effort to monitor threatened settlements in the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan and provide evidence of destroyed villages.

High-resolution commercial satellite images, analyzed by AAAS researchers, will be posted after 12:01 a.m. U.S. Eastern Time Wednesday, 6 June to Amnesty Internationals new "Eyes on Darfur" Web site (www.eyesondarfur.org). The project is at the forefront of efforts by human rights groups to use satellite cameras to help protect vulnerable populations. It will allow computer users around the globe to visually track the status of settlements Amnesty International considers possible targets of attack.

The new site includes up-to-date images on 12 intact but vulnerable villages as well as archival satellite photos documenting the destruction of a dozen settlements in Darfur since January 2005. Lars Bromley, project director for the AAAS Science and Human Rights Program, said the commercially available photos can show objects as small as two feet across, sufficient to show destruction of huts and other structures.

"We provide the geospatial support," Bromley said. "Were just providing a new form of content," but content can have dramatic impact. "By analyzing geospatial images, we can see that whole villages, some with more than 1,000 homes, have been destroyed" since the beginning of 2005, Bromley said. The images also show the appearance of makeshift settlements of displaced persons in close proximity to the small contingent of African Union monitoring forces in Darfur.

AAAS is a nonprofit, non-advocacy group, Bromley said, but it has long sought ways to use scientific methods, including forensic sciences and statistics, to help advance human rights.

Although the Sudanese government signed a peace agreement with th
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