Satellite Sentinel News Roundup 11/4

On Thursday, November 3, distinguished war correspondent Rick MacInnes-Rae of the Canadian Broadcasting Cooperation (CBC) interviewed Enough Project Director of Communications Jonathan Hutson about the work of the Satellite Sentinel Project for "Dispatches," CBC's foreign affairs show. (source) MacInnes-Rae had heard Hutson speak at an October conference in Montreal on the 10th anniversary of the international Responsibility to Protect doctrine, hosted by the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies.

Introducing the 10-minute interview on the CBC website, MacInnes-Rae writes: "This tall bearded guy was describing an effort to detect war crimes being committed in Sudan, and to deter those who might commit others, by using satellite images. Listening to him was like hearing a CSI script read aloud. Mass graves sought and found with forensic precision. Jonathan Hutson was talking about the Satellite Sentinel Project."

Listen to the full interview online.

Rick MacInnes-Rae: Describe for me the process that leads you to one of them [mass graves] in a way that sort of sums up how a typical discovery goes?

Jonathan Hutson: One Sunday morning, I got a call from a religious leader in Geneva who said he’d gotten a call from a soldier in Sudan who said, ‘We’re digging a mass grave. There are so many bodies.’ And he referenced a place; he said, ‘It’s near the Tilo School.’ (Tilo village is near Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan, Sudan.)

And he gave no direction of where was it, but he just said, 'You have to start looking.' So we started asking eyewitnesses, ‘Have you seen any unusual activity in the area?’ And really, weeks went by before we located an eyewitness and he'd actually watched an earth moving machine dig out the mass graves.

So I interviewed this person and he described in detail that he’d seen multiple pits at least five meters wide. He couldn’t give us, of course, the geo-coordinates -- the latitude and longitude that you would need to find a specific spot on the earth from space. So I asked him what sort of material was the roof of the closest building made of and he said, 'Zinc.' And I thought, ‘Well, there we go, zinc from space will look white.’

So he described it all in detail and he said it was about a kilometer south of the Tilo School, and that agreed with what the first eyewitness had called in, this soldier from on the ground. We later would find other eyewitnesses who’d seen bodies picked up in the streets of Kadugli. Beginning on June 6, there were mass killings by the Central Reserve Police and other [Government of Sudan]-aligned forces.

…After I had these notes all written up from the interviews, I presented that to a team at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. They tell the cameras where to shoot, and they also take the lead in analyzing the imagery and writing the reports. Then we get additional analysis from DigitalGlobe…

No one knows how many bodies those pits might hold, but conceivably many hundreds of bodies could be there.

On Friday, October 28, citizen journalist Ryan Boyette was interviewed by Vincent Makori in a segment for Voice of America (VOA) TV. He discussed his work reporting evidence of indiscriminate bombing by the Government of Sudan in South Kordofan, and his collaboration with SSP. (source)

Ryan Boyette: You get worried, you get very worried, when a MIG fighter jet flies over you or when you hear Antonov bombings just a few kilometers away… It shakes you a little.

We take the information and send it back out to people like the Satellite Sentinel Project, who will then take satellite images of the [Sudan Armed Forces] airstrip in El Obeid and see the exact same planes that are bombing… From there, we’re able to determine without a doubt that it’s Sudan Armed Forces that are bombing the people, and where they’re coming from, and where they’re bombing.