Standoff in El Junquito

Standoff in El Junquito

Were Óscar Pérez and his companions victims of extrajudicial killings?

15 January 2018

In collaboration with Bellingcat, Aliaume Leroy, and Giancarlo Fiorella


On Monday 15 January 2018, Venezuelan security forces raided a house on the outskirts of El Junquito, 20 kilometers west of Caracas. The target of what came to be known as “Operation Gideon” was Óscar Pérez, the leader of a small rebel group acting against the government of President Nicolás Maduro.

Nine people were killed, including Óscar Pérez and six other members of his group. All but one were found to have injuries consistent with being shot in the head. Two members of the Venezuelan armed forces were also killed — Nelson Antonio Chirinos La Cruz and Heiker Vasquez.

In order to understand the events that took place that day, Forensic Architecture and Bellingcat have collected, timed, and located nearly 70 pieces of related evidence. These include videos and photographs recorded by citizens, security forces, and by Óscar Pérez himself, as well as leaked audio of police radio communications and official statements. Each piece of evidence has been placed in an interactive, navigable, 3D model of the area for the benefit of the journalists, researchers, and the larger public who are interested in further exploring the case and assisting in filling in the gaps.

The attack on Óscar Pérez and his group can be divided into three distinct stages, which have been plotted within the platform: the negotiations; the fire fight and raid of the safe house; and the aftermath. In analysing all the material, we believe that Óscar Pérez and his group were killed during the raid between 11:15 am and 12:00 pm.

This account of the killing raises concerns about whether the actions taken by the security forces were legal and proportional. The Venezuelan security forces mobilised large numbers of personnel and multiple agencies in order to carry out the raid, using military grade hardware, which led to a chaotic operation with various forces accidentally targeting one another. It became known after the attack that Heiker Vasquez, one of the security personnel killed in the operation, was also a prominent leader of the ‘colectivo’ Tres Raices — one of many pro-government paramilitary groups that have arisen in Venezuela over the last few years. This raises questions regarding whether such paramilitary groups were also involved in the operation with the knowledge and approval of the security forces.

More material is required, particularly videos recorded between 11:15 am and 12:00 pm, in order to investigate this case further.

Contact

If you have any information that may help us paint a fuller picture of what happened to Óscar Pérez and his companions in El Junquito on 15 January 2018, please contact eljunquito@bellingcat.com or +447835333851 via WhatsApp or Signal.

If you are concerned about security or would like to remain anonymous, you can use one of the following two options:

  • Create an anonymous email account on the platform Tutanota (this is free and no contact details are needed), then use this email address to send an email to eljunquito@bellingcat.com
  • Send a message anonymously to +447835333851 preferably using Signal or WhatsApp, and we will arrange the best means to communicate while maintaining your security.


Forensic Architecture Team

Eyal Weizman

Stefan Laxness

Samaneh Moafi

Franc Camps-Febrer

Enrico Murtula

Clive Vella

Collaborators

Bellingcat

Aliaume Leroy

Giancarlo Fiorella

Sea Watch vs. Libyan Coast Guard

Mare Clausum

The Sea Watch vs Libyan Coast Guard Case

6 November 2017

Video reconstruction by Forensic Oceanography and Forensic Architecture
Report by Forensic Oceanography

On 6 November 2017, the rescue NGO Sea Watch (SW) and a patrol vessel of the Libyan Coast Guard (LYCG) simultaneously directed themselves towards a migrants’ boat in distress in international waters. The boat, which had departed from Tripoli a few hours earlier, carried between 130 and 150 passengers. A confrontational rescue operation ensued, and while SW was eventually able to rescue and bring to safety in Italy 59 passengers, at least 20 people died before or during these events, while 47 passengers were ultimately pulled back to Libya, where several faced grave human rights violations – including being detained, beaten, and sold to an other captor who tortured them to extract ransom from their families. The unfolding of this incident has been reconstructed in a video by Forensic Oceanography in collaboration with Forensic Architecture.

To reconstruct the circumstances of this particular incident, however, Forensic Oceanography has produced a detailed written report which argues it is also necessary to understand the policies that shaped the behaviour of the actors involved, and the patterns of practices of which this event was only a particular instantiation. Before arriving on the scene, the LYCG liaised with the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre of the Italian Coast Guard, which informed them of the presence of the boat in distress. The Ras Jadir, the very patrol vessel of the LYCG that engaged in reckless behaviour and thus contributed to the death of several passengers, was one of the four patrol boats that had been donated by Italy to the LYCG on the 15 May 2017, in presence of the Italian Minister of Interior. On board that vessel on the day of the events, 8 out of the 13 crew members had received training from the EU’s anti-smuggling operation, EUNAVFOR MED.

Based on these elements, the Mare Clausum report argues that this particular incident is paradigmatic of the new, drastic measures that have been implemented by Italy and the EU to stem migration across the central Mediterranean. This multilevel policy of containment operates according to a two-pronged strategy which aims, on the one hand, to delegitimise, criminalise and ultimately oust rescue NGOs from the central Mediterranean; on the other, to provide material, technical and political support to the LYCG so as to enable them to intercept and pull back migrants to Libya more effectively. This undeclared operation to seal off the central Mediterranean is what we refer to as Mare Clausum.

While in the report “Blaming the Rescuers”, released in June 2017, [1] Forensic Oceanography has analysed in detail the targeting of rescue NGOs, the Mare Clausum report focuses instead on the second aspect of this strategy. The report shows that through policy agreements and multiform support to the LYCG, Italy and the EU have come to exercise both strategic and operational control over the LYCG. In this way, the LYCG has been made to operate refoulement by proxy on behalf of Italy and the EU, in contravention to one of the cornerstones of international refugee law, the principle of non-refoulement[2]



[1] Charles Heller and Lorenzo Pezzani, ‘Blaming the Rescuers’, June 2017, https://blamingtherescuers.org/
[2] According to Article 33(1) of the 1951 Refugee Convention (CSR51): “No contracting State shall expel or return a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”

Forensic Oceanography Team

Charles Heller

Lorenzo Pezzani

Rossana Padeletti

Forensic Architecture Team

Stefan Laxness

Stefanos Levidis

Grace Quah

Nathan Su

Samaneh Moafi

Christina Varvia

Eyal Weizman

Collaborators

WatchTheMed Platform

Swiss National Science Foundation

Republic of Canton and Geneva

Footage by Sea Watch e.V.

The Grenfell Tower Fire

The Grenfell Tower Fire

A media archive and spatial database of the 14 June 2017 fire

 

The Grenfell Tower fire was unprecedented in London’s history, not least because the catastrophe was captured live by thousands of videos of the fire, taken by Londoners on their cameras and smartphones. Every one of those videos is a unique piece of evidence, containing unique information.

Forensic Architecture has started to collect these pieces of evidence and assemble them within a 3D model of Grenfell Tower. Our aim is to create a powerful and freely-available resource for members of the public to explore and better understand the events of the night of the fire.

These pieces of footage will become a continuous ‘3D video’ of the fire, mapped onto our architectural model of Grenfell Tower. The model will allow the user to investigate the fire, and will sit within a web platform which will ultimately act as a freely available public resource.

This is an open-ended project that we expect to continue for a year or more. It will continue to grow, as further information about the night of the fire enters the public domain.

To create this comprehensive record, we need to gather as much available video footage from the night of the fire as possible. Forensic Architecture invites members of the public to submit their video footage of the fire to us at www.grenfellmediaarchive.org.

Forensic Architecture team

  • Eyal Weizman (principal investigator)
  • Christina Varvia  (project coordinator)
  • Bob Trafford
  • Nick Masterton
  • Nathan Su
  • Franc Camps Febrer
  • Simone Rowat
  • Sarah Nankivell
  • Emma Charles
  • Nurri Kim


The Iuventa

The Iuventa

Counter-investigation of the events leading to the seizure of an NGO rescue vessel

18 June 2017

Investigation by Forensic Oceanography and Forensic Architecture
Realised with the support of Borderline Europe, the WatchTheMed platform and Transmediale

As the EU’s policies of deterrence deployed since the Arab uprisings failed to stem migrants’ crossings across the Mediterranean, the Italian government – in collaboration with other European governments and agencies – deployed a two-pronged strategy to close off the central Mediterranean: on the one hand, by criminalising and limiting the rescue activities of the NGOs that have stepped in to make up for the lack of state rescue operations; and on the other, by reinforcing the collaboration with Libyan authorities and militias to prevent and intercept departures, thus physically containing migrants on the Mediterranean’s southern shore without requiring the direct involvement of Italian or EU authorities. This undeclared operation, which dramatically escalated over 2017, is what Forensic Oceanography has called ‘Mare Clausum’ (‘closed sea’ in Latin).

Forensic Oceanography and Forensic Architecture have investigated two cases central to this ongoing ‘Mare Clausum’ research, The Iuventa and Sea Watch vs. Libyan Coast Guard (forthcoming), each concerning one of the dimensions of this policy which entails migrants being brought back to a country where their lives are endangered, and their human rights are systematically violated. These investigations have been made possible by an exponential increase in video documentation by the different actors involved, allowing for a unique form of 3D modelling of incidents developed together with Forensic Architecture.

Since the end of 2016, culminating in summer 2017, a growing campaign of delegitimisation and criminalisation has systematically targeted NGOs engaged in search and rescue. On August 2nd, the ship Iuventa, of the German NGO Jugend Rettet (‘Youth Rescue’), was seized by the Italian judiciary under suspicion of ‘assistance to illegal migration’ and collusion with smugglers during three different rescue operations: the first on the 10 September 2016, the second and third on 18 June 2017. The seizure came only days after the NGO, along with several others, had refused to sign a ‘code of conduct’ that would have dangerously limited their activities. The video presented here offers a counter-investigation of the authorities’ version of these three episodes, and a refutation of their accusations.

This investigation is currently exhibited as part of Counter Investigations: Forensic Architecture at the Institute for Contemporary Art, London (UK), 7 Mar – 13 May 2018.

Forensic Oceanography Team

Charles Heller

Lorenzo Pezzani

Forensic Architecture Team

Nathan Su

Christina Varvia

Eyal Weizman

Grace Quah

Technical Consultants

Rossana Padaletti (GIS)

Richard Limeburner (Oceanography)

Collaborators

Borderline Europe

WatchTheMed Platform

Transmediale

Footage and stills by  Jugend Rettet e.V. and Reuters

Outsourcing Risk

Outsourcing Risk

Investigating the Ali Enterprises Factory Fire on 11 September 2012

For the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR)


Forensic Architecture was asked by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) to carry out an architectural analysis of the fire that destroyed the Ali Enterprises textile factory on 11 September 2012 in Karachi, Pakistan. Inadequate fire safety measures at the company, a supplier for the German clothes retailer KiK, led to the deaths of 260 factory workers. This investigation uncovers the many ways in which design and management decisions not only failed to prevent injury and causalities, but in fact augmented the death toll.

Our findings have now been submitted to the Regional Court in Dortmund, Germany, where legal action against KiK is ongoing. Since March 2015, the Court has been examining a civil claim against KiK filed by four Pakistanis – one survivor and three relatives of workers killed in the fire – with support from the ECCHR and medico international.

Method

Our analysis of the building and the incident was based on available satellite and ground-level photography, witness sketches, and survivor testimonies, as well as the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Joint Investigation Team (JIT) reports that served as material for the case file. As part of our analysis, we constructed a precise, navigable three-dimensional model and a film that illustrates and simulates the path of the fire and studies the building’s vulnerability to it. We also collaborated with other specialists in order to simulate the smoke propagation and the paths that the occupants used to escape the building. We used the crowd and smoke simulations to not only recreate the actual conditions of the fire, but also to test variations in architectural configuration and management of space that is more compliant with the law.

The smoke simulation was made in collaboration with:

Edmund Ang, PhD researcher in advanced computer modelling and fire dynamics, Hazelab at Imperial College London

and

Prof. Guillermo Rein, Professor of Fire Science at the Department of Mechanical Engineering of Imperial College London, Editor-in-Chief of the journal Fire Technology, and leader of the research group Hazelab at Imperial College London

The crowd simulation was made in collaboration with:

Dr Virginia Alonso-Gutierrez, Crowd Simulation Specialist / Fire safety engineer and researcher at ENEVAC

Forensic Architecture Team

Eyal Weizman (principal investigator)

Christina Varvia (project coordinator)

Nicholas Masterton

Nico Czyz

Sarah Nankivell

Hana Rizvanolli

Collaborators

European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR)

Edmund Ang | Hazelab at Imperial College London

Prof. Guillermo Rein | Hazelab at Imperial College London

Dr. Virginia Alonso-Gutierrez | ENEVAC

Press

Trägt KiK die Verantwortung für 260 Tote? | SPIEGEL TV, 1 February 2018

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 more were wounded, and forty-three students were forcibly disappeared.

The whereabouts of the disappeared 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 that night’s events.

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 incidents throughout the night, and the complex relationships between them. This demonstrates, in a clear graphic and cartographic form, the scale of collusion and coordination between state agencies and organised crime throughout the night.

In this way, the project 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

Press

Digitale Menschenrechtler | Weltspiegel, 14 January 2018

Kidnapping survivor speaks on Ayotzinapa movement | Caller Times (USA Today), 27 October 2017

Forensic Architecture: Habitando maquinarias complejas | Gas TV Mexico, October 2017

Así reconstruyó Forensic Architecture el ataque a los estudiantes de Ayotzinapa | CNN, 28 September 2017

Ayotzinapa three years later: new light, few answers | openDemocracy, 26 September 2017

Parents of the 43 missing students take matters into their own hands | VICE News, 26 September 2017

El caso Ayotzinapa: una cartografía de la violencia | Código, 11 September 2017

La plataforma digital que revela a detalle cómo occurió la desaparición de los 43 de Ayotzinapa | Huffington Post, 8 September 2017

Plataforma Ayotzinapa permite trabajar en nuevas hipótesis | Aristegui en Vivo, 7 September 2017

Three years after 43 students disappeared in Mexico, a new visualization reveals the cracks in the government’s story | The Intercept, 7 September 2017

Ayotzinapa: el mapa interactivo de la tragedia | Proceso, 7 September 2017

The Ayotzinapa Platform: What happened to the 43 disappeared Mexican students? | openDemocracy, 7 September 2017

In 2014, 43 students were massacred. Can digital forensics help solve the crime? | WIRED, 7 September 2017

A tres años de Ayotzinapa, un mural revela los caminos de la violencia | New York Times (Español), 7 September 2017

Desaparición forzada en Iguala: una reconstrucción forense | Aristegui Noticias, 7 September 2017

Los 43 de Ayotzinapa, una cartografía de la violencia en México | El País, 7 September 2017

Ayotzinapa: La inusitada actividad de celulares de policías, delincuentes y estudiantes | Proceso, 7 September 2017

Presentan cartografía caso #Ayotzinapa; muestra minuto a minuto hechos de Iguala | Radio Fórmula, 7 September 2017

Recrean Caso Iguala: culpan al Gobierno por desaparición de 43 | Quadratin, 7 September 2017

Forensic Architecture: Innovative technologies are shedding new light on past crimes | TANK Magazine, September 2017

Torture and Detention in Cameroon

Torture and Detention in Cameroon

The dark side of the U.S.-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, an 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 act with increasing impunity against civilians in the country’s Far North region.

Between 2015 and 2016, Amnesty International collected evidence of over a hundred cases of illegal detention, torture and extra-judicial killing of Cameroonian citizens 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 facilitiesa regional military headquarters, and an occupied schoolin 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.


Forensic Architecture team

Eyal Weizman (principal investigator)

Omar Ferwati (project coordinator)

Robert Trafford

Simone Rowat

Nicolas Gourault

Nicholas Masterton

Sarah Nankivell

Christina Varvia

Ground Truth

Ground Truth

Testimonies of dispossession, destruction, and return in the Naqab/Negev



Ground Truth is an ongoing project that aims to provide historical and juridical evidence on behalf of communities in the illegalised Palestinian Bedouin villages in the northern threshold of the Negev/Naqab desert, Israel. While forced physical displacement and illegalisation render these communities non-existent on maps and aerial imaging, state-led land works and afforestation transform and erase their land and material cultural remains. The project aims to document and collate disparate legal, historical, and material evidence for the continuity of the sedentary presence of the Bedouin population on this land, as well as traces of their repeated displacement and destruction by government forces.

At the heart of the project are a community-led photographic dossier and a 3DGiS platform that utilises contemporary and historical images to map the presence and remnants of the Bedouin’s inhabitation. This first iteration of the project centres on the case of the Al-Araqib village, which has been demolished over 116 times over the past 60 years. A second phase of the project would wish to expand the work into more unrecognised villages where establishing proof of continuity of presence would be helpful.

Through a collaborative process of DIY aerial photography with Public Lab, Zochrot, and the local families of al-Araqib, a kind of ‘civic satellite’ is formed. We use kites and balloons equipped with simple cameras to form a methodology through which aerial and ground views can be gathered across multiple expeditions. These are assembled through photogrammetry into stacked geo-referenced 3D point-cloud photo terrains. Photographs, taken by residents and activists, document not only expulsion and destruction but also their ongoing life and resistance. These photographs, along with other media, data, and testimony, attest to an inflicted violence by connecting the history of this local land struggle to larger-scale and longer-term environmental transformations and to the conflicts that such changes have provoked.

Forensic Architecture team

  • Eyal Weizman (Principal Investigator)
  • Ariel Caine (Project Coordinator)

Collaborators

  • Debbie Farber / Zochrot
  • Umar al-Ghubari / Zochrot
  • Nuri al-Uqbi
  • Aziz al-Turi
  • Sayakh al-Turi / Al Araqib
  • Hagit Keysar / Public Lab
  • Princeton University Conflict Shoreline Course
  • Forensic Architecture MA (MAFA) at the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths

Collaborating Organisations

3D model: Stone house of Ibn Bari
3D model: Well of Sh’chade Abu Siam (no. 2)



Unrecognised Forum

In January 2016, together with the al-‘Araqı¯b Popular Committee, other Bedouin organizations and the anticolonial organization Zochrot, Foren­sic Architecture took part in building and assembling an alternative civil forum entitled Ground Truth, curated by Debby Farber with Aziz al-Tu¯ri and Nu¯ri al-‘Uqbi. It was an improvised institution in a temporary struc­ture we built outside the al-Tu¯ri cemetery. It involved testimonies and the collection of documents, and it also included the closing session of the Truth Commission on Nakba in the Naqab, a long-term project by Zochrot.

Ground Truth took place on 1 and 2 January 2016, because we hoped the New Year would give us a little breathing space, a stay on the forum’s inevitable demolition.

Speakers at the Ground Truth/Truth Commission on Nakba in the Naqab forum include: Saya¯h al-Tu¯ri, Nu¯ri al-‘Uqbi, Aziz al-Tu¯ri, Dr. Safa Abu-Rabia, Nu¯ri al-‘Uqbi, Ranad Shaqirat (RIWAQ) and Umar al-Ghubari, Debby Farber, Nura Resh and Erella Shadmi, Oren Yiftachel and Miki Kratsman.

The forum included the collection and photography of documents and the creation of an online archive.


Video by: Alina Schmuch & Jan Kiesswetter

Ecocide in Indonesia

Ecocide in Indonesia

Providing evidence to local and international bodies for universal                        jurisdiction cases in relation to environmental crime.

Undertaken in collaboration with FIBGAR (Baltasar Garzón and Manuel Vergara)



 

Environmental Violence

Throughout the past century, states, as well as supra- and intra-state organisations, have conceptualised cases of mass casualties under a familiar framework of human-on-human violence: political repression, violations of human rights, war crimes, sometimes even crimes against humanity and genocide. However, as the sources of contemporary calamities are increasingly likely to be a result of environmental destruction and climate change, a new set of categories and tools must be developed to describe forms of destruction that are indirect, diffused and distributed in time and space.

The environment – whether built, natural, or the entanglement of the two – is not a neutral background against which violence unfolds. Its destruction is also not always the unintended “collateral damage” of attacks aimed at other things. Rather, environmental destruction or degradation over an extended timescale can often be the means by which belligerents pursue their aims. Though environmental violence is different to warfare, it is also entangled with it; it is often both the consequence of conflict and a contributing factor in the spread and aggravation of state violence.

Ecocide

“Ecocide is the extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of the ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been or will be severely diminished.”

(Polly Higgins’s proposal for the Rome Statute)

Indonesia

In 2015, fires in the Indonesian territories Kalimantan and Sumatra consumed over 21,000 square kilometres of forest and peat lands. Fumes from about 130,000 local sources combined into a massive cloud, a few hundred kilometres long and a few kilometres thick. It contained more carbon, methane, ammonium and cyanide than those produced by the entire annual emissions of the German, British or Japanese industries.

As the acrid cloud drifted north and westwards, it engulfed a zone that extended from Indonesia across Malaysia, Singapore, southern Thailand and Vietnam. Scientists estimate that this resulted in more than a hundred thousand premature deaths, and that the fires might push the world beyond 2ºC of global warming – and into the realm of potential and unpredictable calamities – faster than expected.

The cloud can be understood as the harbinger of a new international crime of ecocide, one likely to become more relevant in the years to come.


Source: Airs Sounders, Aqua Satellite, NASA, January-December 2015, edited by Forensic Architecture.

The Peat

Some of the roots of the fires can be traced to the political repression and mass killings undertaken by the Indonesian government since 1965, when local and international companies collaborated with the armed forces to seize vast tracts of land from indigenous populations, and then employed those same populations in exploitative conditions.

The fire took place mainly in dried peat lands made up of thousand-year-old decomposed organic matter. In their undisturbed, swamped state, peat lands are fire-resistant, but decades of canal digging by large agribusiness operators had drained and dried the peat to prepare it for the monoculture plantation of palm oil – making it extremely flammable. Peat can smoulder underground for weeks, and creep in great depth many kilometres from the source of the fire.

The Fire

In 2015, the Indonesian government declared a state of emergency and started using air-dropped water and cloud seeding to produce artificial rain, in a desperate attempt to extinguish the fire.


Credit: Walhi 2015, edited by Forensic Architecture

Forensic Architecture team

  • Eyal Weizman (Principle Investigator)
  • Samaneh Moafi (Project Coordinator)
  • Jason Men
  • Christina Varvia
  • Nichola Czyz
  • Nabil Ahmed
  • Paulo Tavares

Collaborators

  • Baltasár Garzon / FIBGAR
  • Manuel Vergara / FIBGAR
  • Mauricio Corbalán
  • Pío Torroja / M7Red

77sqm_9:26min

77sqm_9:26min

Counter investigating the testimony of Andres Temme in relation to the murder of Halit Yozgat in Kassel, 6 April 2006

Commissioned by the Unraveling the NSU Complex people’s tribunal; Haus Der Kulturen Der Welt (HKW); Initiative 6 April; and documenta14

Shortly after 17:00 on the 6 April 2006, Halit Yozgat, 21 years old, was murdered while attending the reception counter of his family run Internet café in Kassel, Germany. His was the ninth of ten racist murders committed by a neo-Nazi group known as the National Socialist Underground or NSU across Germany between 2000 and 2007. 

At the time of the killing, an intelligence officer named Andreas Temme was present in the shop. Temme was at the time an employee of the State Office for Constitutional Protection (Landesamt für Verfassungsschutz), the domestic intelligence agency for the German state of Hessen. Temme did not disclose this fact to the police, but was later identified from his internet records.

In his interrogation by the police, and in the subsequent NSU trial in Munich, Temme denied being a witness to the incident, and claimed not to have noticed anything out of the ordinary. The court accepted his testimony. It determined that Temme was present at the back room of the internet café at the time of the murder. It also accepted that from his position in the shop it was possible not to have witnessed the killing.

Within the 77 square meters of the Internet café and the 9:26 minutes of the incident, different actors crossed paths — members of migrant communities, a state employee and the murderers — and were architecturally disposed in relation to each other. The shop was thus a microcosm of the entire social and political controversy that makes the NSU Complex’.

In November 2016, eleven years after the murder, an alliance of civil society organisations known as ‘Unraveling the NSU Complex’ commissioned Forensic Architecture to investigate Temme’s testimony and determine whether it could be truthful.

Update (December 2017)

This investigation was presented to the state parliamentary inquiry into the NSU in Hessen on 25 August 2017. An exchange followed with members of the ruling Christian Democrat party (CDU), which was in charge of the security services at the time of the murder. The CDU produced a substantial critique of our investigation, our response to which can be found here. A report by The Intercept on this controversy is here. As part of this exchange, new police files, classified before this exchange, were made public. The following diagram shows the apparent timeline of events according to the updated timings.  These new timings support what we have called scenario 3in which Temme was at PC-2 at the time of the killing. 

Forensic Architecture team

  • Eyal Weizman (principal investigator)
  • Christina Varvia  (project and research coordinator)
  • Stefanos Levidis
  • Omar Ferwati
  • Simone Rowat
  • Nicholas Masterton
  • Yamen Albadin
  • Ortrun Bargholz
  • Eeva Sarlin
  • Franc Camps-Febrer
  • Hana Rizvanolli
  • Sarah Nankivell
  • Chris Cobb Smith (advisor)
  • Lawrence abu Hamdan (advisor)

Collaborators

Press

Kriminalität: Forensic Architecture | BR Capriccio, 7 November 2017

A German Intelligence Agent Was at the Scene of a Neo-Nazi Murder. He Can’t Explain Why. | The Intercept, 18 October 2017

Forscher verteidigen Gutachten zu NSU-Mord in Kassel | Monopol, 17 September 2017

documenta14: der NSU-Mord in Kassel | Metropolis, ARTE TV, 1 September 2017

V-Mann Temme in der “Mausefalle” | der Freitag, Edition 35, 30 August 2017

Reestablishing Facts in the Post-Truth Era | ARCH+, Issue 229: In The End, Features 67, 25 July 2017

77sqm_9:26min | E-Flux Architecture, 24 July 2017

Documenta Kassel: Using art as their witness | New York Times, 23 June 2017

The most important piece at documenta 14 in Kassel is not an artwork. It’s evidence. | Artnet, 8 June 2017

Architects seek to debunk spy’s testimony in neo-Nazi murder trial | The Guardian, 7 April 2017

Die Pulverwolke | Süddeutsche Zeitung, 5 April 2017

Image Gallery

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