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Yale Joins Conflict Observatory Documenting Ukraine War Crimes

May 17, 2022

The Yale School of Public Health’s Humanitarian Research Lab (HRL) will document alleged violations of international law and crimes against humanity, including war crimes, by Russia-aligned forces in Ukraine as part of a new Conflict Observatory initiative announced today by the U.S. Department of State.

The Yale HRL recently identified 22 damaged hospitals and health care facilities in Ukraine in its first report to the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe’s Moscow Mechanism.

The Yale HRL team will work in close collaboration with the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO), geographic mapping software company ESRI, the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative, PlanetScape Ai, and other partners in supporting the Conflict Observatory.

“President Peter Salovey has denounced the ‘callous disregard for human life and reckless destruction of Ukraine’s cities,’” said Pericles Lewis, vice president for global strategy and vice provost for academic initiatives at Yale University. “The work of the Humanitarian Research Lab continues a long tradition of Yale scholars who lend their expertise to addressing the health and welfare of communities around the globe. My colleagues and I are proud of the work of the Humanitarian Research Lab to document potential war crimes.”

A summary of the HRL team’s first report, Evidence of Widespread and Systematic Bombardment of Ukrainian Healthcare Facilities is available on the Conflict Observatory website. The report, which contributed to the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe’s (OSCE) Moscow Mechanism mission of experts, found that 22 hospitals and health care facilities in five localities in Ukraine sustained damage between 24 February and 29 March 2022. The Moscow Mechanism was initiated by OSCE Member States to collect evidence of alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. The HRL report is based on commercial satellite imagery analysis and open-source investigative methods. The Yale HRL concluded that Russia-aligned forces have engaged in widespread and systematic bombardment of Ukrainian health care facilities. The HRL’s evidence corroborates reports by OSCE ground monitors in Ukraine who also documented attacks on health care facilities by Russia-aligned forces.

“Destruction of health facilities is devastating not only for patients and providers but for entire populations,” said Professor Sten Vermund, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the Yale School of Public Health. “Health facility destruction is a form of terrorism that leaves lasting scars.”

Kaveh Khoshnood, Ph.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of epidemiology at the YSPH and faculty director of HRL, will serve as principal investigator. Nathaniel Raymond, lecturer in epidemiology at YSPH and executive director of the Yale HRL, will supervise the HRL team working on the project.

“The Humanitarian Research Lab brings unique skills and expertise to the Conflict Observatory,” said Khoshnood. “This project aligns directly with the lab’s mission to support international responses during complex emergencies in real-time while developing rigorous and empirical methodologies for conducting this work.”

Submitted by Sabrina Lacerda Naia dos Santos on May 17, 2022