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JMC Human Rights Lab Assists Gasoil Smuggling Investigation

June 8, 2020

The ship Amazigh F.
The ship Amazigh F. © Gaetano Spiteri

James Madison College's Human Rights Lab's analysis of satellite imagery will be used as evidence in a legal case by TRIAL International against smugglers of Libyan gasoil. The JMC Human Rights Lab serves as a research and experiential learning project focused on providing opportunities for students to engage in relevant research associated with the investigation of human rights violations. This spring semester, the group researched and analyzed satellite imagery confirming vessel tracking data in support of TRIAL International's investigation against Swiss trading company Kolmar Group AG and a network of Libyan gasoil smugglers.

Read TRIAL International's full report on the case here. 

Professor Robert Brathwaite, the founding faculty member of the JMC Human Rights Lab, writes:

"Working with the JMC Human Rights Lab has been both a professional and personal highlight in my time as a faculty member at James Madison College. In the almost three years of operation of the lab we have grown from a small group of six students to almost twenty students. From a professional perspective, the lab has provided me new opportunities to work with an amazingly talented group of students. I am often impressed by the intellectual passion and skills the students in the lab exhibit as they analyze information regarding crimes of international concern. The JMC Human Rights Lab has also provided unique professional opportunities for both myself and the students. To my knowledge, we are one of the only organizations that provides opportunities for undergraduate students to engage in policy relevant research associated with the investigation of human rights violations and other crimes while focusing on the development of specific career related skills associated with database construction/management, data visualization, geographic information systems, and open source research. Working with the students in the JMC Human Rights Lab has also been personally fulfilling. Often I find myself learning new skills and insights from the students themselves (sometimes to an embarrassing  degree). One of the most fulfilling aspects of my work with the lab is getting to use my research and related training to collaborate with the students on international security issues of pressing concern and seeing students gain professional skills and increased confidence that allows them to pursue new opportunities through their work with the lab. Most recently, the lab has sent students to intern at the International Criminal Court and has cooperated on research projects with the United Nations and other civil society actors. In all, I am very proud of the work that the students in the lab have produced and feel very privileged to be able to participate with them in this activity at James Madison College."

Special thanks to Chelsea Wein and Cecile Herledan, student lab leaders and spring 2020 international relations graduates.