FA / SITU investigation into drone strikes informs report presented at UN

Copy of Goldsmiths’ press release:

Research into drone strikes by academics at Goldsmiths, University of London and Situ Research was presented at a press conference at the United Nations today (Friday 25 October).

An interactive map of drone strikes across seven countries and visualisations of three in Pakistan, produced by the Forensic Architecture team based at Goldsmiths, will form an integral part of a report to be presented by United Nations Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism and Human Rights, Ben Emmerson.

The report indicates that two thousand people living in Pakistan have been killed by drone strikes in the past decade. Of the 2,200 dead, 400 were civilians and an additional 200 victims were deemed ‘probable non-combatants’.

Forensic Architecture is a European Research Council project based in the Centre for Research Architecture, in the Department of Visual Cultures. The project analyses sites of contemporary violence and produces spatial evidence that is used by legal and political organisations. Their research sources and combines a wide range of materials in innovative new ways to provide a clearer picture of what happens before, during and after drone strikes. 

The Forensic Architecture team have developed an interactive online platform that locates all 37 drone strikes investigated by Emmerson.

Professor Eyal Weizman, Director of the Centre for Research Architecture, at Goldsmiths, said: “The report has identified that the single greatest obstacle to an evaluation of the civilian impact of drone strikes is a lack of government transparency. This makes it extremely difficult to assess claims of precision targeting objectively. Architectural analysis is crucial to this investigation, because many drone strikes target buildings and some target built-up areas in cities and towns resulting in civilian casualties.

“As such, this makes the work that we do here at Forensic Architecture ever more pertinent. We piece together lots of different bits of information, in an attempt to provide more accurate and objective evidence that can hold governments to account, and help victims seek redress.”

Since January 2013, the team has been working with Emmerson to provide forensic architectural analysis for his UN inquiry into civilian casualties caused by three US drone strikes in Waziristan, a Federally Administered Tribal Area in Pakistan. 

From this research, they mapped, modelled, and visually animated the aftermath of the three drone strikes, with an emphasis on the damage these strikes have caused on the ground. 

Entry and exit from Waziristan, where the drone strikes occurred, is permitted only for residents and the military. Inside the region the use of electronic equipment, including mobile phones and cameras, is prohibited. This combination of circumstances often means that information about sensitive issues such as drone strikes is scarce.

Emmerson will be presenting his report to the UN General Assembly in New York tomorrow (Friday). The report investigates US drones strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia; as well as Israeli strikes in Gaza.

Notes to Editors
Images of the visualisations are available upon request.

The online platform created by the Forensic Architecture team can be viewed here

The videos detailing the three cases can be found here

Forensic Architecture is a European Research Council project based at the Centre for Research Architecture, Department of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, University of London. 

The research team from Forensic Architecture is as follows: Eyal Weizman (Principal); Susan Schuppli (Senior Research Fellow, Project Coordinator); Jacob Burns (Research Assistant); Reiner Beelitz (Architectural Modelling); Francesco Sebregondi (Researcher); and Chris Cobb-Smith (Research Advisor).

The drone strike visualisation project is being undertaken in collaboration with Situ Research, an architectural research practice based in New York. 

For more information about Situ Research, visit this website

The Situ Research team is as follows: McKenna Cole, Akshay Mehra, Charles-Antoine Perrault, and Bradley Samuels.

For further information
Sam Gough
Press Officer
Goldsmiths, University of London
New Cross, London SE14 6NW

t: +44 (0)20 7919 7970
m: +44 (0)7753309095