Jeruaslem24– Leading Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq launched a forensic architecture unit this weekend, the first of its kind in the Middle East, in partnership with Forensic Architecture, a multidisciplinary research group based at Goldsmiths, University of London that uses architectural techniques and technologies to investigate cases of state violence and violations of human rights around the world.
Director of the forensic architecture unit Ashraf Hamdan talked to Vibes about forensic architecture as an extension of the concept of forensics, using architecture and visual methods to unravel and tackle different truths about what actually happened. The methods are ones used in architecture schools, like modeling, and photo-matching to establish truths and create a story that reflects and tells what has happened.
Since Al-Haq is a legal human rights institution that deals with different cases, Hamdan adds, “this unit is an extension of its outstanding legacy documentation of the Israeli violations in the occupied territories,” which Al-Haq considers as a development of the tools it uses to document and analyze the different scenes and violations.
On 28 May, Al-Haq’s Legal Research and Advocacy Department released its first comprehensive legal report, “Khudair Warehouse: Israel’s Chemical Attack on the Gaza Strip”. Al-Haq says that this report builds on the inaugural investigation of the newly launched Al-Haq Forensic Architecture Investigative Unit. The investigation examines Israel’s targeted attack and destruction of the Khudair Warehouse by the Israeli Occupation Forces during Israel’s widescale May 2021 military offensive on the Gaza Strip. The Israeli Occupation Force’s attack on the chemical warehouse created a chemical cloud that spread chemical waste over the people and environment of Gaza, poisoning the population, and amounting to the indirect use of a chemical weapon, prohibited under international law.
Al-Haq’s extensive investigation, which involved analysis of mobile phone and drone footage and CCTV, dozens of interviews with residents, and analysis from munitions and fluid dynamics experts, used 3D modeling of the warehouse to determine the circumstances of the attack.
Legal experts concluded from Al-Haq’s findings that while conventional weapons were used in the bombing, “the shelling of the warehouse, with knowledge of the presence of toxic chemicals stored therein, is tantamount to chemical weapons through indirect means. Such acts are clearly prohibited […] and prosecutable under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court”.
Hamdan adds that the Khudair warehouse was the largest warehouse for agricultural supplies within Gaza, housing over 50 percent of agricultural supplies within the Gaza Strip and making the warehouse particularly vital for farming within the Gaza Strip.
“We identified the ammunition that was used in the attack on the storehouse, which was the N150 smoke FC ammunition, advanced smoke ammunition, which is manufactured by the Israeli Elbit systems”.
Al-Haq worked on a legal report which was launched alongside the investigation, and is proceeding with legal actions.
With the forensic architecture unit being the first of its kind in the region, Hamdan says that they received different inquiries from institutions that want to collaborate and work on multiple projects.
Hamdan revealed that Al-Haq is working on a new investigation now, details of which can’t be published yet but should be available soon.
Listen to the full interview on this episode of Vibes.