A Thank You Note from AI-USA for the Syria Satellite Imagery Project

We are very grateful to Amnesty International USA (AI-USA) for their support and partnership on the recent Syria Satellite Imagery project. This initiative leveraged high resolution satellite imagery kindly provided by DigitalGlobe, the advanced Tomnod platform and over 70 volunteers from the SBTF Satellite Team to crowdsource evidence of mass atrocities in three key Syrian cities. Here is a very kind thank you note from our counter-part at AI-USA who spearheaded the project with us. We look forward to continuing our collaboration and support of AI-USA’s important work moving forward.

Dear SBTF volunteers–

Though there is much left on our end to be done in relation to the Syria pilot project, I wanted to take a moment and write to express deep gratitude.

The SBTF and Amnesty International are natural partners. Amnesty operates under the principle that—given the tools—people everywhere can act in concert to protect the fundamental rights and inherent dignity of each of us.

In AI’s 50 year history, the methods and means by which we agitate as a crowd has evolved beyond community-based Amnesty chapters, to a truly global movement that is no longer artificially separated into groups of activists/advocates and the people whose rights are at risk.

Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees all people the right to share in scientific advancement, and its benefits. Technology has always changed our world. But represented in your work and efforts is a truly new paradigm of social action for social good…one that at once transcends the structural, geographic, and economic barriers that have segmented the human family for too long, and also leverages the power of Article 27 back onto itself in a reinforcing model of technological innovation and group action.

Sadly, as we know, our efforts in this project will not bring about the end of the widespread and systematic abuses occurring in Syria. Indeed, over the course of the project, the situation on the ground as evolved for the worse, and large swaths of the country are effectively crimes scenes. The collection of evidence—and the path to justice—will be a long term endeavor.

But the fruits of the time and energy you committed to in the Syria pilot will have lasting and permanent implications for how AI and other human rights watchdogs approach documentation of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Through this pilot, we have already learned a great deal about the immense leverage social computation can have in the fight for human rights. I look forward to working with you and our other partners on this pilot to incorporate those valuable lessons into future plans.

And above all else, I look forward to the opportunity to work with you in the very near future, and to great effect.

On behalf of Amnesty International—our staff, our volunteers, our activists, and our partners in Syria and everywhere else we can and must collectively make a difference with this approach—I want to express profound gratitude. And I personally and humbly give thanks.

In Solidarity,
Scott Edwards
Advocacy, Policy, and Research Department
Amnesty International, US

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