The Ayotzinapa Case

The Ayotzinapa Case

A Cartography of Violence

In collaboration with Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez (Centro Prodh), Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense (EAAF), and Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC) for the families of the victims.



On the night of 26-27 September 2014, students from the Rural Normal School of Ayotzinapa were attacked in the town of Iguala, Guerrero, by local police in collusion with criminal organisations. Numerous other branches of the Mexican security apparatus either participated in or witnessed the events, including state and federal police and the military. Six people were murdered – including three students – forty wounded, and 43 students were forcibly disappeared.

The whereabouts of the students remains unknown, and their status as ‘disappeared’ persists to this day. Instead of attempting to solve this historic crime, the Mexican state has failed the victims, and the rest of Mexican society, by constructing a fraudulent and inconsistent narrative of the events of that night.

Forensic Architecture was commissioned by and worked in collaboration with the Equipo Argentino de Antropologia Forense (EAAF) and Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez (Centro Prodh) to conceive of an interactive cartographic platform to map out and examine the different narratives of this event. The project aims to reconstruct, for the first time, the entirety of the known events that took place that night in and around Iguala and to provide a forensic tool for researchers to further the investigation.

The data on which the platform is based draws from publicly available investigations, videos, media stories, photographs and phone logs. We transposed the accounts presented across these sources into thousands of data points, each of which has been located in space and time and plotted within the platform in order to map the incidents and the complex relationships between them. This demonstrates, in a clear graphic and cartographic form, the level of collusion and coordination between state agencies and organised crime throughout the night.

The project thus reveals a cartography of violence spanning from the street corner level to the entire state of Guerrero. It describes an act of violence that is no longer a singular event but a prolonged act, which persists to this day in the continued absence of the 43 students.

It also seeks to demonstrate the ways in which collective civil society initiatives, undertaking independent investigations using innovative analytical tools, could help investigate complex crimes and confront criminal impunity and the failures of Mexican law enforcement.

In particular, it reaffirms our commitment to heal the open wound of the Ayotzinapa case and to work until the truth of the night is clarified, and the students’ whereabouts are known.

In addition to the platform, this project will be exhibited as part of Forensic Architecture: Towards an Investigative Aesthetics from 9 September 2017 – 7 January 2018 at the Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC). 

Forensic Architecture Team

Eyal Weizman (Principal Investigator)

Stefan Laxness (Project Coordinator)

Nadia Méndez

Franc Camps Febrer

Irving Huerta

Theo Resnikoff

Belén Rodríguez

Simone Rowat

Christina Varvia

Ariel Caine

Nathan Su

Marina Azahua

Nathalie Tjia

Nicholas Masterton

Sarah Nankivell

Robert Trafford

and Anso Studio

Collaborators

Special Thanks

John Gibler

Rosario Güiraldes

Pablo Dominguez

Virginia Vieira

Témoris Grecko

Juan Omar Fierro

Taller cartográfico “Ariles”

Centre for Investigative Journalism (CIJ)

Other Means

Nestor Camilo Vargas

The surviving Ayotzinapa students and the families of the 43 disappeared for their tireless struggle for truth

Torture and Detention in Cameroon

Torture and Detention in Cameroon

The dark side of the US-backed war against Boko Haram

For Amnesty International’s report, Cameroon’s Secret Torture Chambers

Since 2014, Cameroon has been at war with Boko Haram, the armed extremist group responsible for thousands of murders and abductions across the Lake Chad Basin.

Trained and supported by U.S and European governments and armed by Israeli private companies, the Cameroonian security forces are acting with increasing impunity against civilians in the country’s impoverished Far North region.

Amnesty International has collected evidence of over a hundred cases of illegal detention, torture and extra-judicial killing of Cameroonian citizens falsely accused of supporting or being a member of Boko Haram, at around twenty sites across the country.

Using testimony and information supplied by Amnesty International, Forensic Architecture reconstructed two of these facilities – a regional military headquarters, and an occupied school – in order to confirm and illustrate the conditions of incarceration and torture described by former detainees.

At the two sites, detainees were kept in degrading and inhumane conditions in dark, crowded, airless cells. All were fed poorly, and most were tortured routinely. Dozens of detainees report witnessing deaths at the hands of Cameroon’s elite military unit, the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR), or the Cameroonian intelligence agency, the DGRE.

Forensic Architecture’s research also uncovered the presence of U.S. personnel – military and private contractors – at one of the sites. Using satellite imagery, open-source material, and images gathered from social media, Forensic Architecture demonstrated the proximity of those personnel to sites of incarceration and torture, raising troubling questions for continued American support of Cameroon’s security forces.

A companion article, co-authored with U.S. news website The Intercept, explores some of the further material uncovered in the course of our investigation which did not fall within the remit of the video.


Forensic Architecture team

Eyal Weizman (Principle Investigator)

Omar Ferwati (Project Coordinator)

Robert Trafford

Simone Rowat

Nicolas Gourault

Nicholas Masterton

Sarah Nankivell

Christina Varvia

Khan Sheikhoun Crater

Khan Sheikhoun Crater

Photogrammetric Analysis of Suspected Chemical Bomb Crater


On April 4, 2017, a chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria was allegedly carried out by Pro-Government forces.

A crater at the scene of the attack was suspected to be that of a chemical bomb.

Weapons experts require crater dimensions in order to analyse the type of bomb used.

From footage taken on the ground by civilians and journalists, we used photogrammetry techniques to create a 3D model from which we were able to take the required dimensions.

Forensic Architecture team

  • Eyal Weizman (Principal Investigator)
  • Ariel Caine
  • Nicholas Masterton

Collaborating Organizations

  • Human Rights Watch

Al-Jinah Mosque

Al-Jinah Mosque

US airstrike in Al-Jinah, Syria: Architectural assessment confirms building targeted was a functioning mosque, US misidentification possibly the cause for civilian casualties. 

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Summary

Forensic Architecture has undertaken an architectural analysis of the March 16th 2017 US Airstrike in Al-Jinah, Syria. We conducted interviews with survivors, first responders and with the building’s contractor, and examined available and sourced videos and photographs in order to produce a model of the building both before and after the strike. Our analysis reveals that, contrary to US statements, the building targeted was a functioning, recently built mosque containing a large prayer hall, several auxiliary functions, and the Imam’s residence. We believe that the civilian casualties caused by this strike are partially the result of the building’s misidentification.

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The Incident

On the evening of March 16th 2017, a major unilateral US drone strike targeted Sayidina Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Mosque in Al-Jinah, in the province of Aleppo, Syria. According to witnesses, the strike took place when close to 300 people were in the building. Most were gathering for the Isha’a night prayer while 50 others remained in the smaller “winter prayer hall” where a religious seminar had just finished. The Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, claimed to have recovered the bodies of 38 civilians. Five of them were children. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 42 dead but the actual death toll might still be higher.

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US Statements

The US Central Command claimed responsibility for the airstrike, stating, “US forces conducted an airstrike on an Al-Qaeda in Syria meeting on March 16th, killing several terrorists”. It wrongly identified the mosque as a “partially constructed community meeting hall”; wrongly located it in the province of Idlib; and claimed that there was no indication of civilian casualties. The Pentagon has later released an image showing the destroyed mosque and insisting it “deliberately did not target the mosque at the left edge of the photo.” This statement omits the fact that the targeted building also was a mosque that was in frequent use by locals.

Update (5 May 2017): Despite initial denials from the Pentagon that the building hit was a mosque and that there were civilian casualties, US defense officials told CNN that the results of a US Central Command investigation found that a March US airstrike in northern Syria did, in fact, strike a building that was part of a “mosque complex.”

Update (7 June 2017): In a press conference, the U.S. Defense Department told the New York Times that their investigation concluded that the strike was “legal and appropriate”. U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Paul Bontrager told the Washington Post that the Special Operations Task Force that ordered the strike “complied with operational and legal requirements” and that they were “confident this was a meeting of al-Qaeda members and leaders; this was not a meeting of civilians.”

Update (8 August 2017): A United Nations Syria Commission report concludes that US forces “lacked an understanding of the actual target”, “failed to take all feasible precautions to avoid or minimize incidental loss of civilian life”, and was “in violation of international humanitarian law” (p.13).

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Forensic Architecture

In engaging with this case, Forensic Architecture focused on the architectural questions raised by the strike: What was the function of the building targeted? What can its architectural characteristics before the strike, and the state of the ruin afterwards, reveal about the incident? Where civilian casualties to be expected in such a building?

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Method of Investigation

Forensic Architecture constructed a detailed model of the building before and after the strike. In order to obtain the necessary information to do so, we undertook remote interviews with the mosque’s original contractor, several survivors of the US attack, and the director of the rescue operation Mohammad Halak of the Syrian Civil Defense (White Helmets). We then cross-referenced and confirmed our findings against available photographs, videos and satellite imagery of the building, and further commissioned several photographic surveys on the ground. In the preparation of this report Forensic Architecture was in continuous contact with Bellingcat, who helped provide much of the source imagery, and with HRW, who worked with us to corroborate finds, identify munitions, and locate witnesses. We have also benefited from research and advice provided by Airwars.

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Findings

Our report, presented as a video (above), confirms that the building was not a “partially constructed community meeting hall” but a large, functional mosque. The concrete and cinder block building was divided into two parts, north and south, separated by an entrance, a passageway and stairwells. It had two levels, with the upper level still incomplete in parts.

On the ground floor, the south part of the building contained the main prayer hall. The upper floor above it was still incomplete. The south part of the building was damaged in the strike but remained largely intact.

The northern part of the building contained a set of typical auxiliary functions of a mosque: a communal kitchen with a dining area, the toilets, a ritual wash area and the secondary, smaller prayer room, also know as the “winter prayer room”. A residential flat used by the Imam and his family was located above these functions on the upper floor of the northern part of the building. This part was completely destroyed in the strike.

As a result of the strike, the passageways connecting the two parts of the building were partially blocked by rubble. The stairwells connecting the ground level with the upper floor were also destroyed.

Witness testimonies and photographs of the building taken before the strike show that there were no doors separating the “winter prayer room”, the main passageway and the wash area. These rooms were accessible, as well as acoustically and visibly exposed.

Given that the building was open to the public, that a large number of local residents were free to move through and around it as they gathered for prayer, and that there was a publically accessible religious lesson with 50 people present, raises doubts regarding the likelihood that an Al-Qaeda meeting was taking place in the building at the time.

The architectural reconstruction has also allowed us to understand the sequence of events that took place in and around the mosque following the strike. The strike began when two bombs completely demolished the northern part of the building. The layout of the rubble in the deep craters is consistent with ground penetrating bombs. In order to escape, worshippers in the main prayer hall in the south part of the building had to climb over the rubble that partially blocked the doorways and passageways and destroyed the stairs. While people exited the building and immediately afterwards they were targeted by further missile strikes. Examining images of munitions remains, Chris Cobb-Smith (who assists Forensic Architecture on weapon analysis), Bellingcat, and HRW’s experts identified the munitions fired outside the mosque as likely to be Hellfire missiles. This is consistent with an anonymous US official who, when speaking to the Washington Post, confirmed that “the attack involved two Reaper drones, which fired more than four Hellfire missiles and dropped at least one 500-pound guided bomb in a follow-up strike.”

Sharing screens in a Skype call with Halak, the head of the rescue team, we identified the location of the casualties pulled out of the rubble. There were eleven people injured and eight killed as a result of the first two blasts within the northern part of the building, he said. They included the Imam’s wife, Ghassun Makansi, a fourteen-year-old boy named Mohammad Khalad Orabi, and his ten-year-old brother Hassan Omar Orabi. The rest of the casualties were caused by the secondary missile strikes outside the building. We identified traces of missiles on a nearby road and these traces support witness testimonies regarding the secondary strikes on evacuees.

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“Exchanging architectural plans and photographic analysis with people on the ground we managed to reconstruct a detailed model of the mosque. We believe that the US forces that targeted the building misidentified the nature of the building, leading to high levels of civilian casualties.”

-Omar Ferwati, FA Project Coordinator

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Resources

While undertaking this investigation, we exchanged information with Human Rights Watch, Bellingcat, and Airwars.

Video footage without voiceover and subtitles as well as the Arabic/English timecoded script is available upon request from Forensic Architecture.

Our video report is also available on our YouTube channel.

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This analysis was produced at Forensic Architecture’s own expense.

Forensic Architecture team

  • Eyal Weizman (Principal Investigator)
  • Christina Varvia
  • Omar Ferwati (Project Coordinator)
  • Nick Masterton
  • Simone Rowat
  • Stefanos Levidis
  • Sarah Nankivell

M2 Hospital

M2 HOSPITAL

Pro-Government strikes on M2 hospital, Aleppo, Syria

June-December 2016


According to the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), the Omar Bin Abdul Aziz Hospital, also known as M2, was subject to fourteen strikes by pro-government forces from June to December 2016. The strikes were predominantly carried out by air to surface missiles, but also included illegal cluster munitions, barrel bombs, naval mines, and artillery. The hospital sustained significant damage over this six-month period, which rendered it out of service many times. According to the UN, M2 Hospital was one of only three hospitals left in Aleppo by mid-August 2016 that was offering intensive care facilities and the only hospital with a paediatric department.

Photographs and videos taken in and around the hospital facilitated our analysis of some of the consequences of these strikes. Each piece of footage captured only a small part of the building; however, by combining and cross-referencing these clips we were able to reconstruct the architecture of the building as a 3D model and locate the exact sites of the bombings and the resultant damage. The model became the medium through which we could navigate between various images and videos of the incidents in order to produce a cohesive narrative of destruction.

There are a number of CCTV cameras in the hospital that are continuously on, capturing every strike. We located each camera and its orientation in the building in order to integrate footage from the CCTV cameras, handheld videos, and photographs within virtual space. Identifying the location of each video created a tangible connection between these media, which enabled us to verify the position and direction of each camera and situated it in relation to others.

Analysis of one particular video showing workers moving from the inside to the outside of the building was essential in geolocating the hospital, as it revealed a common characteristic of the built environment seen in satellite imagery. The spatial link created as a result of this investigation allowed us to anchor all footage to this exact location and to corroborate the range and multiplicity of the strikes, raising questions about the intent behind this destructive pattern of events.

SAMS estimates that 2016 was the most dangerous year for health workers in Syria. The group verified 73 attacks on medical facilities and personnel in besieged Aleppo between June and December 2016, fourteen of which targeted M2 on the following dates:

June 3, 2016

June 14, 2016

July 14, 2016

July 16, 2016

August 1, 2016

August 5, 2016

August 11, 2016

September 23, 2016

September 26, 2016

September 28, 2016

November 18, 2016

December 04, 2016

December 14, 2016



Forensic Architecture team

  • Eyal Weizman (Principal Investigator)
  • Christina Varvia (Project Coordination)
  • Adam Noah (Research, 3D Modelling, Video Editing)
  • Nicholas Masterton (Image Projection, Animation, Video Editing)
  • Samaneh Moafi (Analysis, Video Editing)

Collaborating Organizations

  • Atlantic Council

 

 

Umm al-Hiran

Umm al-Hiran

Northern Negev, 18 January 2017

Forensic Architecture collaborated with ActiveStills to investigate the killing of a Bedouin man, Yaqub Musa Abu al-Qi’an, and of a policeman, Erez Levi, on January 18, 2017 in the illegalised Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the northern Negev. 

Shortly before dawn January 18, a large police force raided the village in order to prepare for the demolition of several houses. This demolition was part of a plan to remove the entire village in order to clear the area for the building of a new settlement for Jews only. The police said Abu al-Qi’an was involved in a terrorist attack and suggested he had “links to DAESH”. Local residents and activists said the policemen shot Abu al-Qi’an without provocation and that, following this shooting, Abu al-Qi’an lost control of his car which drove over the policemen.

To investigate the incident Forensic Architecture synchronised videos shot on the ground by members of ActiveStills with aerial footage released by Israeli police. The video we produced overlaying the voiceover of the ground videos over the aerial police footage. 

Our analysis shows that Abu al-Qi’an’s car was proceeding slowly towards the general direction of the policemen when it was shot 3 times. This was followed by a burst of 4 gunshots. 

4 seconds after the first shot was fired his car changes course and drove towards a group of policemen. 

6 seconds after the first shot the car hits the policemen. 

This is followed by a long burst of fire. The car’s horn is heard continuously sounding, suggesting that the driver might be incapacitated. 

13 seconds after the first shot the car comes to a standstill. 

We can also identify the clear sound of a single gunshot at a time several policemen are seen surrounding the stopped vehicle. This last shot is consistent with what the Israeli security personnel calls “verification of killing” or shooting with the intent to kill already neutralised people.

Ongoing Investigation

Contrary to police claims, al-Qi’an’s headlights were on

“..Almost every element of the story police relayed in the hours after the deadly incident has been repudiated in various media reports and investigations. Now, it seems the police claim that Yaqub Musa Abu al-Qi’an was driving with his lights off, which allegedly made police suspect he was carrying out a vehicular attack, is most likely untrue as well…video shows Abu al-Qi’an’s vehicle, after three shots were fired at it, heading down a slope with its headlights on — before striking any police officers.”

Video contradicts more police claims in Umm el-Hiran killing by John Brown, +972  Published February 1, 2017

In an Al Jazeera news report broadcast the day after the incident, we noticed a short video segment which we believed to show Yaqub Abu al-Qi’an’s car in the first moments of the incident. There is a flashlight pointed at the car and its headlights are on. Abu al-Qi’an’s car does not seem to be moving at an irregular pace.



“…Later that day, police released a video clip filmed from a police helicopter overhead. “In the film, you can see the terrorist standing on the side of the road with the lights of his car off, and the minute he notices the team of [police] he accelerates at them and hits them,” said the police. But in the film, shot with a thermal camera, it is not possible to see whether the lights of al-Kiyan’s Jeep are off or not. Erdan repeated the police’s claim, saying it proved al-Kiyan’s intentions to run over the police officers.”

Killing of Bedouin Driver: New Video Contradicts Claim by Israeli Police by Almog Ben Zikri, Haaretz Feb 03, 2017

Reenactment

20 March 2017

Arguing the Truth

13 July 2017

This video documents Forensic Architecture’s and Activestills’ immediate investigation of this case — showing that the policemen shot Abu al-Qi’an without provocation – and its involvement in the media campaign to expose the lies of the police.

Saydnaya

Saydnaya

Inside a Syrian Torture Prison


Since 2011 thousands have died in Syria’s prisons and detention facilities. With anyone perceived to be opposed to the Syrian government at risk, tens of thousands of people have been tortured and ill-treated in violation of international law.

In April 2016, Amnesty International and Forensic Architecture travelled to Istanbul to meet five survivors from Saydnaya Prison, near Damascus. In recent years, no journalists or monitoring groups which report publicly have been able to visit the prison or speak with prisoners.

As there are no images of Saydnaya the researchers were dependent on the memories of survivors to recreate what is happening inside.

Using architectural and acoustic modelling, the researchers helped witnesses reconstruct the architecture of the prison and their experiences of detention.  The former detainees described the cells and other areas of the prison, including stairwells, corridors, moving doors and windows, to an architect working with 3D modelling software. The witnesses added objects they remembered, from torture tools to blankets and furniture, to areas where they recalled them being used. The recollections sparked more memories as the model developed.

With next to no daylight, in particular in the solitary cells underground, the prisoners in Saydnaya develop an acute experience of sound. Detainees were made to cover their eyes with their hands whenever a guard entered the room and speaking was prohibited, so prisoners became attuned to the smallest noises.

To capture these auditory memories, researchers developed techniques to solicit “ear-witness testimony” and reconstruct the prison’s architecture through sound.

Witnesses listened to tones of different decibel levels, and were then asked to match them to the levels of specific incidents inside the prison. “Echo profiling” helped to determine the size of spaces such as cells, stairwells and corridors (this involved playing different reverberations and asking witnesses to match them with sounds they remembered hearing in the prison) while “sound artefacts” simulated the noise of doors, locks and footsteps, helping generate further acoustic memories.

Detainees at Saydnaya are generally transferred to the facility after spending months or even years in detention elsewhere. Such transfers often take place following unfair trials at secret military courts. Others arrive at the prison without having seen a judge and do not know the alleged charges against them or how long they will be detained.

The Saydnaya project is part of a wider campaign led by Amnesty International calling on the Syrian government to allow independent monitors into its brutal detention centres. Amnesty is urging Russia and the US “to use their global influence to ensure that independent monitors are allowed in to investigate conditions in Syria’s torture prisons”.



2016 Digital Dozen logo white

Forensic Architecture team

  • Eyal Weizman (Principal Investigator)
  • Christina Varvia (Project Coordination)
  • Ana Naomi de Sousa (Video Filming, Co-directing, Co-production)
  • Lawrence Abu Hamdan (Interviews, Acoustic Investigation, Sound design)
  • Hania Jamal (Interviews, 3D Modelling)
  • Nestor Rubio (Website Design)
  • Stefan Laxness (3D Modelling, Animation)
  • Pierre-Francois Gerard (3D Modelling, 3D Panoramas)
  • Simone Rowat (Video Editing)
  • George Clipp (Video Editing)
  • Gochan Yildirim (Camera)
  • Mihai Meirosu (Sound Mixing)
  • Yamen Albadin (Translation, Assistant Video Editing)
  • Hala Makhlouf (Translation, Assistant Video Editing)
  • Ghias Aljundi (Translation)
  • Samaneh Moafi (3D Texturing)
  • Hana Rizvanolli (Project Assistance)
  • Susan Schuppli (advisor)
  • Francesco Sebregondi (advisor)

Collaborating Organizations & Individuals

  • Amnesty International
  • 1635film-istanbul
  • Vasif Kortun/SALT Galata
  • Fiona Gabbert/Goldsmiths’ University Forensic Psychology Unit
  • Goldsmiths’ University Computing Department
 


Introduction Video  
The Road to Saydnaya
Jamal Abdou describes the arrival into Saydnaya prison. © Forensic Architecture
The Architecture of Sound
Four former detainees describe their experiences of living in Saydnaya prison through the sounds that they had heard. 
© Forensic Architecture 

Air Strike Atimah

Air Strike Atimah

Syria/Turkey border, 8 March 2015

The case uses clips found in social media websites online to investigate three air strikes on 8 March 2015, near the town of Atimah in Syria and the displaced persons camp of the same name, both abutting the Northern border to Turkey. Shortly after the strikes, several people recorded the incident and upload their videos and images online, both on Youtube and Twitter. The case was reported by Airwars who provided Forensic Architecture with the primary analysis and narrative.  The Forensic Architecture team identified the location of the strikes close to homes and a public building, and only 900m from the edge of the camp where more than 30,000 people are sheltered. No nation has so far claimed responsibility for this attack, though the target seems to be al Qaeda militants operating in the area. The strike reportedly killed six civilians

Forensic Architecture team

  • Eyal Weizman (Principal Investigator)
  • Christina Varvia (Video Editing, Spatial Analysis)
  • Chris Woods (Voiceover)

Collaborating Organizations

  • Airwars (Primary Research & Analysis)
 


Rafah: Black Friday

RAFAH: BLACK FRIDAY

Report on the war operations of 1-4 August 2014, in Rafah, Gaza


The Black Friday report is a collaboration between Forensic Architecture and Amnesty International. It aims to provide a detailed reconstruction of the events in Rafah, Gaza, from 1 August until 4 August 2014, based primarily on material found on social media. 

Because our investigation team was denied access to Gaza, Forensic Architecture developed a number of techniques aimed to reconstruct the events from hundreds of images and videos recorded by professional and citizen-journalists. The images were thereafter located in a 3D model of Rafah.  This resulted in the Image Complex, a device that allowed us to explore the spatial and temporal connections between the various sources and reconstruct the events as they unfolded. 

Forensic Architecture has also located witness testimonies, delivered after the war, within this 3D model and corroborated the reported events with other audio-visual material. Where the metadata of image material was missing or inadequate, we used time indicators such as observed shadows or bomb clouds to locate sources in space and time.

The report is a part of a long term collaboration between Forensic Architecture and Amnesty international and has also resulted in the Gaza Platform.

Forensic Architecture team

  • Eyal Weizman (Principal Investigator, Text)
  • Christina Varvia (Research, Methodology, Analysis, Animation)
  • Nick Axel (Research, Coordination, Interactive Report, Web Editor)
  • Francesco Sebregondi (Project Management, Cartography)
  • Gustav A. Toftgaard (Cartography, 3D Modelling)
  • Camila E. Sotomayor (Research, Media Analysis, Coordination)
  • Vere Van Gool (Research, Media Analysis, 3D Modelling)
  • Dorette Panagiotopoulou (3D Modelling)
  • Rosario Güiraldes (Cartography)
  • Hania Halabi (Research)
  • Jacob Burns (Research)
  • Susan Schuppli (Advisor)

External Collaborators

  • Shourideh C. Molavi (Fieldwork, Legal Research)
  • Jamon Van Den Hoek (Remote Sensing)
  • Ana Naomi de Souza (Video Production, Voiceover)
  • Mohammed Abdullah (Fieldwork)
  • Kent Klich (Fieldwork, Photography)
  • John Pines (Satellite Image Analysis)
  • Chris Cobb-Smith and Marc Garlasco (Advice on Military Analysis)
  • Felix Kalmenson and Eric Salitsky (3D Modelling volunteers)
  • Mahmoud AbuRahma
  • Angela Gaff
  • Jonathan Littell

Workshop with UCL Bartlett MA Urban Design

  • Adrian Lahoud (Director)
  • Nick Axel (Course Convener, Coordination)
  • Camila E. Sotomayor (Coordination)
  • Platon Issaias, Samaneh Moafi, Sam Jacoby, Godofredo Preira (Tutors)
  • Nasser Alemadi, Yuting Chen, Prutha Chiddarwar, Luxi Deng, Ni Ding, Kailun Fan, Yan Geng, Stella Habipi, Shan He, Shucheng Huang, Yanti Jiang, Ziyang Jiang, Yongzhou Liang, Zhongge Lin, Bingjie Liu, Bingqian Liu, Liting Lu, Rebecca Macklis, Nadia Mendez Guevara, Akarachai Padlom, Androulla Papadopoulou, Longning Qi, Yuanyuan Qiu, Eleftherios Sergios, Jana Shamseddine, Evdokia Spyropoulou, Orn-Uma Sukhaboon, Sihan Wan, Haochen Wang, Xinqi Wang, Zeqing Wang, Jian Wang, Aurelien Wasem, Zhiwen Wei, Dan Wu, Lumeng Xiao, Yiwen Xu, Mengyi Xu, Qinhe Yi, Bolin Zhang, Yulun Zheng, Hang Zou (Students)

Collaborating Organizations

  • Amnesty International
  • Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights
  • Amnesty International Israel
 

 


The Strike on Al Tannur Neighbourhood.  
Methodologies developed for the analysis of footage in Rafah, 1 August 2014 include: Geo-synching, Plume Analysis, Shadow Analysis, Metadata Correction, the Image Complex. © Forensic Architecture

Remote Sensing - Crater Detection
A video animation demonstrating the methodology used by Forensic Architecture to detect the craters left by shelling and bombing. © Forensic Architecture. Based upon an NDVI analysis of Pléiades satellite images taken on 30 July 2014 at 11.40am and 14 August 2014 at 11.54am. © CNES 2014, Distribution AIRBUS DS, all rights reserved.
Remote Sensing - Tank Paths
A video that reconstructs the paths Israeli tanks took in their incursions into the Gaza Strip during the conflict in 2014. © Forensic Architecture. Based upon a Panchromatic remote sensing analysis of Pléiades and satellite images taken on 30 July 2014 at 11.40am and 14 August 2014 at 11.54am & Landsat 8 satellite images taken on 30 July 2014 and 8 August 2014. © CNES 2014, Distribution AIRBUS DS, Landsat 8, all rights reserved.

Close-ups of a Pléiades satellite image, taken on 1 August 2014 at 11.39am, reveal Israeli tanks as they move into position near Salah al-Din Street, Rafah. They are here marked within the boxes drawn with red-dotted lines. © Forensic Architecture and CNES 2014, Distribution AIRBUS DS, all rights reserved.

A Pléiades satellite image of eastern Rafah, taken on 14 August 2014 at 11.50am, is marked with air strike craters (large red dots) and artillery craters (small red dots) and the resulting intensity of attacks (shades of red). © CNES 2014, Distribution AIRBUS DS, all rights reserved.

 

 

 

Nakba Day Killings

NAKBA DAY KILLINGS

The Killing of Nadeem Nawara and Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh Abu Daher in a Nakba Day protest outside of Beitunia on May 15th, 2014



Every year on May 15th, acts of memorialization and resistance take place throughout Palestine to commemorate the Nakba catastrophe of 1948, when Palestinian people were violently displaced from the land that subsequently became Israel. On Nakba Day 2014, a protest culminated in clashes with Israeli security forces outside of the Ofer Prison in the town of Beitunia, next to Ramallah. Two teenagers, Nadeem Nawara, 17, and Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh Abu Daher, 16 were shot dead in front of security cameras and TV film crews. The videos showed that the two Palestinian teens were shot while walking unarmed and posing no threat. One video, shot by CNN, captured two different members of the Israeli security forces on site discharging their weapons in the protestor’s direction, and then panning to show Nawara’s body being carried towards an ambulance. Despite this footage, the Israeli security forces denied committing this massacre.

Defence for Children International (DCI) Palestine, acting on behalf of the teenagers’ parents, commissioned Forensic Architecture to investigate all available material in relation to both killings and produce a body of evidence that can be used to hold the perpetrators accountable. The report focused on establishing the definitive account of who shot and killed the two teenagers and whether it was intentional or not. We identified the border policeman who killed Nawara and proved beyond reasonable doubt that his action was intentional.

Nawara was killed by live fire shot through a rubber-coated steel bullet attachment. The analysis demonstrates that the border policeman was aware of the fact he was shooting live rounds and tried to conceal his actions. By conducting cutting-edge audio forensics, we established that the same act of occlusion was used to kill Abu Daher too. While there is not enough material to determine the identity of the border policeman who shot and killed Abu Daher, we believe he was killed by the same border policeman or one of his colleagues operating in a similar manner.

On November 23, 2014, the Israeli military indicted the border policeman they took into custody earlier that month for the manslaughter of Nadeem Nawara. Charges brought against Israel’s security personnel are extremely rare. The fact that there was a charge at all in this case is due to the existence of the videos. Yet despite the fact that there were cameras filming at the time of his death, no responsibility has been admitted in the killing of Abu Daher on that day. Based on our findings we support Siam Nawara’s (Nadeem’s father) claim for the border policeman to be charged with murder, and that Israeli public campaigns to exonerate the killer must be resisted. We also call for charges to be brought for the killing of Abu Daher.

Methodology

Our investigation was conducted in four stages.

1: Video Analysis

One publicly available video, shot by a local CNN crew, shows Israeli soldiers discharging their weapons twice in the direction of protestors, and a security camera video shows Nawara being mortally wounded. Our analysis identified a key moment captured in both videos to establish a synchronisation point. Videos have a consistent amount of frames every second. To establish who shot Nawara we needed to find the same moment in both videos and to rewind the footage to see which of the soldiers shoots at the moment when Nawara was hit. By synchronising the videos we determined that the Israeli soldier discharged his weapon at the precise moment when Nawara was shot.



2: Architectural Analysis

A two-dimensional plan of the site was drawn based on geographical data obtained from public sources and survey plans provided by the Bitunia municipality A three-dimensional model was built based on measurements and a detailed photographic survey conducted on site. The locations of the security cameras and the CNN camera were positioned in this three-dimensional space. The locations of each of the Israeli soldiers shown shooting at the protestors and the location of Nawara were identified and positioned within the model. Two soldiers were identified as having discharged their weapon in the CNN video. Using the three-dimensional model, we drew the lines of sight for both soldiers and found that only one had a clear view to Nawara’s position when he was shot. This soldier is the same soldier who was identified in our video synchronisation as shooting at the exact moment Nawara was mortally wounded.



3. Weapon Analysis

By comparing videos of other soldiers firing M16 rifles, we found that when firing live ammunition the empty cartridge is automatically ejected from the chamber; however, when rubber coated steel bullets are fired the empty cartridge is not automatically ejected. By identifying the immediate discharge of an empty cartridge after an Israeli soldier shoots, we demonstrated that the border policeman fired live ammunition.



4: Sound Analysis

For the Audio Forensics, we engaged the services of sound specialist Lawrence Abu Hamdan to undertake a comparison of the different sounds of the gunshots in the video. By analysing the shot’s sonic signature, it was possible to identify the acoustic characteristics of live ammunition being fired through a rubber bullet extension. Firing live ammunition through a rubber bullet extension suppresses the shot’s sound in a comparable, yet distinct way to using a silencer. By comparing the sound signature of Nawara’s shooting to Abu Daher’s, a pattern emerged which showed that both deaths were the result of Israeli security personnel masking the firing of live ammunition through a rubber coated extension.



Forensic Architecture team

  • Eyal Weizman (Principal Investigator)
  • Nick Axel (Research and Coordination)
  • Steffen Kraemer (Video Compositing and Montage)
  • Lawrence Abu Hamdan (Audio Forensics)
  • Jacob Burns (Research)

Collaborating organization

Interactive Report

Press