Satellite Sentinel News Roundup 7/14

Satellite Sentinel Project captures the attention of major media around the world, using satellite imagery and ground-based reporting to focus attention on and promote accountability for mass atrocities in Sudan and South Sudan. Here is a round-up of recent, select media coverage of SSP.

On Thursday, July 14, SSP released one of its most important reports to date. "Crime Scene: Evidence of Mass Graves in Kadugli, Sudan" caused an international uproar, as it detailed new eyewitness reports on the ground, corroborated by visual evidence of systematic mass killings and mass graves.

The AP broke the story, "US monitors detects mass graves in Sudan's S. Kordofan," which was picked up by over 735 media outlets including the New York Times, Boston Globe, Le Monde, Telegraph UK, CBS News, FOX News, Google News, Yahoo News, The Washington Post, and Voice of America. (source)

New satellite images support eyewitness accounts that mass graves were dug in the capital of Sudan's South Kordofan state to bury 100 or more people killed last month, US monitors said Thursday.

"Sudans South Kordofan fighting: 'Mass graves found,'" was the lead story on BBC Africa on July 14. (source)

The organization also says it has spoken to a number of witnesses who allege forces aligned with Khartoum are systematically killing civilians believed to be opposed to the government.

The US President Barack Obama has already expressed his concern at reports of attacks in South Kordofan based on ethnicity.

Khartoum denies the allegations, and says it is fighting a legitimate war of self-defense against insurgents.

Religion Dispatches, an influential magazine funded by the Ford Foundation as a clearinghouse for faith-based perspectives on current events, published "Breaking: Evidence of Mass Graves in Sudan" on July 14. (source)

[T]he new SSP report is significant beyond its horrific content. This is the first time in history that private groups have combined world-class satellite image analysis with detailed reliable eyewitness reports to confirm the location of mass graves to present details of how the bodies came to be there. The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) is a pioneering consortium comprising the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, the anti-genocide groups Enough and Not on Our Watch, as well as internet companies Google and Trellon, and DigitalGlobe satellite company. The brainchild of actor George Clooney and Enough co-founder John Prendergast, SSP has been making history ever since. (Clooney calls them “the anti-genocide paparazzi.”) The actual work is far more clinical than Clooney’s nickname suggests. But it’s this ‘just the facts’ Dragnet style that’s integral to the SSP’s role as a collector of forensic evidence that can be used in a potential trial of the perpetrators at the Hague.

It is also notable that Senator John Kerry referenced mass graves in his opening statements to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on "Two New Sudans: A Roadmap Forward" with Ambassador Princeton Lyman, United States Special Envoy for Sudan on July 14. (source)

Abyei is one crisis point. Southern Kordofan is another. Once again, we are hearing chilling reports of serious human rights abuses by government forces. There are new and serious allegations of mass graves. Shells are falling in the Nuba Mountains, and people in need have been cut off from humanitarian relief. Sudan must not go down this road again. Southern Kordofan needs a United Nations monitoring mission and both sides need to agree to and abide by a ceasefire. If atrocities are occurring, they must stop and there must be accountability.

TIME featured SSP on Thursday: "Clooney's Satellites Capture Piles of Bodies, Mass Graves in Sudan." (source)

George Clooney's Satellite Sentinel Project set up to monitor the spiraling violence in Sudan has a stunning report out today with convincing evidence showing "a campaign of systematic mass killing of civilians in Kadugli, South Kordofan" in the south-central area of the country. TIME was the first to write about Clooney's project.

NPR reported, "South Sudan joins U.N.; Mass Graves Reported in Nearby Sudan." (source)

But the world's youngest nation has other things to worry about, as well. Fasulo says the issues include oil-sharing, citizenship, and border monitoring."In addition," she said, "concerns remain over human rights abuses and corruption, as well as a possible return to war over the disputed oil-rich border area of Abyei and conflict in Southern Kordofan."

The Atlantic published, "How George Clooney's Satellite Group is identifying mass graves in Sudan." The article includes satellite images, as well as a map of the region. (source)

Today George Clooney's organization, the Satellite Sentinel Project, is highlighting another major concern: fighting between the Sudanese military and an ethnic group loyal to south Sudan's army--the Nuba--in South Kordofan, a major oil-producing region that is now part of the north (it's not pictured on the CIA map to the right, but it's right below El Obeid). The Satellite Sentinal project says it has identified mass graves in Kadugli.

Even before the "Evidence of Mass Graves" report, SSP was featured in many prominent news sources earlier in the week:

On Friday, July 8, 2011, the Google Africa Blog reported on the South Sudan Community Mapping event in Nairobi. The post, "South Sudanese sing and map their way to independence," cited SSP, the World Bank, UNOSAT, and RCMRD as major participants. (source)

This was the second in a series of mapping events intended to encourage local people to create accurate and detailed maps of South Sudan, to help them navigate their path to independence. There were over 100 attendees in the room, mostly Sudanese -- university students, humanitarian workers, journalists, developers, donors, citizens -- coming from Nairobi and its surroundings, but also as far as Juba, the capital of South Sudan.

On Saturday, July 9, John Avlon wrote an article on The Daily Beast, "Birth of a Nation," celebrating South Sudan, but also recognizing the challenges of the new nation. (source)

Enough Project co-founder John Prendergast has explained the likely scenario to me as being "like Yugoslavia -- if you want the territory, you go knock the people off it and move into those areas and then you start negotiating." This would fit previous patterns.

Abyei is not the only area in Sudan that has suffered an escalation of violence in recent months. More than 350 structures in el-Feid village in the Nuba Mountain area of South Kordofan, Sudan, were destroyed in April, again according to imagery made public by the Satellite Sentinel project. Violence has escalated in the last month, with daily reports of gunfire and artillery, including the hunting of human beings by assault helicopter -- all causing Congressman Hank Johnson to take to the floor of the House of Representatives and call for an investigation into allegations of war crimes.

Also on Saturday, Enough Project Communications Director Jonathan Hutson appeared on Al Jazeera English to talk about SSP in South Kordofan. (Watch the video and read the blog post here.)

On Sunday, July 10, the Sudan Tribune published an article, "Sudan says deployment of army in flashpoint states 'normal'" about Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) activity in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. (source)

Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has downplayed as "normal" the deployment of troops and military hardware by the country's army in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile, two tense states bordering the newly independent South Sudan.

Satellite imagery released earlier this month by the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has revealed that north Sudan army known as Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) had positioned four vehicles consistent with multiple-rocket launcher systems at a recently reinforced base within 65 kilometers of South Kordofan.

The Washington Times article, "Rights activists warn of genocide in Sudan," cited SSP's satellite imagery and reports on Tuesday, July 12. (source)

Sudanese army convoy of 80 vehicles, including towed artillery, traveling through Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan. It earlier reported evidence of aerial and artillery bombardment in the Nuba Mountains by the Sudanese military.

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