Satellite Sentinel News Roundup 7/21

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 Friday, July 15, The Guardian's blog series, "Carne Ross on power and nations" posted "South Sudan: lessons in diplomacy from the birth of a new nation." (source)

The US was the single most important state in driving to this week's conclusion. Sudan has sat high on the agenda of this administration and its predecessors, thanks mainly to the extraordinary bipartisan coalition of support for the South, which united the Christian right and the democratic left. More recent arrivals, like the NGO Enough and indeed George Clooney, added to the pressure. That high-level attention, including from the US representative at the UN, Susan Rice, powered the energetic and capable, if largely uncelebrated, American diplomacy.

SSP made an appearance on Capitol Hill on Friday, July 15th. Congressman Hank Johnson, who represents Georgia's Fourth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, cited SSP in his presentation on evidence of war crimes committed by the Sudanese Armed Forces in Sudan's South Kordofan state. (Watch the video here.)

TIME's "Battlelands" blog also featured SSP on Friday, July 15. (source)

An internal UN report provides more evidence of mass graves in Sudan's southern Kordofan as violence against civilians, mostly perpetrated by northern forces, spirals out of control.

TIME Thursday published satellite photos and information from eyewitnesses gathered by George Clooney's Satellite Sentinel Project that shows suspected mass graves where forces from northern Sudan have allegedly buried at least 100 civilians they killed in Kadugli.

The shocking report by the UN Mission in Sudan, "UNMIS Report on the Human Rights Situation During the Violence in southern Kordofan," confirms the execution of a UN staff member, indiscriminate aerial bombardments of civilian areas, summary executions of civilians suspected of sympathizing with the South, and the mass graves. The report is not public. The New York Times first disclosed the report on Thursday.

On July 15, Al Jazeera English broadcast a "Listening Post" story on commercial satellites and newsgathering, spotlighting the Satellite Sentinel Project and George Clooney. (Watch the video here, Satellite coverage begins at 16:20, and SSP is featured at 21:45.)

George Clooney: "You can GoogleEarth my house any time you want. I want people who do really evil acts to enjoy the same level of celebrity that I do."

Also on Friday, Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, briefed the United Nations Security Council on the situation in Southern Kordofan, where fighting continues despite an agreement signed last month between the parties. The article, "Alarmed by reports of mass graves, UN urges access to Southern Kordofan," mentions the mass graves reported by SSP on July 14. (source)

"I am increasingly alarmed by the mounting allegations of mass graves in South Kordofan, Sudan, and of reported disappearances of civilians, targeting of people on an ethnic basis, and extra-judicial killings," Ms. Amos said in a statement released after the meeting.

Gizmodo wrote, "George Clooney Is Using Satellite Imagery to Prove Genocide" on Friday. (source)

George Clooney, forever bachelor, former Batman, graceful ager and Darfur activist, started Satellite Sentinel Project last year to analyze satellite imagery for evidence of mass graves and body bags. The organization just found some.

On Saturday, July 16th, "U.N. report describes widespread violence in Sudan" was featured on the front page of the CNN World section and included images from the most recent SSP report. (source)

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • The report details allegations of violence, including perhaps mass graves.
  • The Security Council requested the report.
  • It calls for an independent inquiry.
  • An independent contractor detained in late June by the Sudanese Armed Forces reported having seen some 150 bodies of people of Nuban descent scattered on the grounds of a military compound in Umbattah.

And the Satellite Sentinel Project reported Wednesday that its work has revealed visual evidence of mass graves in South Kordofan. ... The evidence found by SSP is consistent with allegations that the Sudan Armed Forces and northern militias have engaged in a campaign of killing civilians.

On Sunday, July 17th, the Sudan Tribune and AllAfrica.com published an article by Eric Reeves, "U.S., UN refuse to speak honestly about compelling evidence of genocide in South Kordofan."

Evidence of mass graves in and around Kadugli, South Kordofan is now overwhelming; it includes definitive satellite photography of three large sites and reports by numerous independently interviewed civilians from the region. Evidence also comes from interviews conducted in June by human rights investigators of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS); these findings appear in an internal UN human rights report whose findings have previously been suppressed by UN/New York. They were leaked to me and others, originally by someone who was evidently quite unhappy with UN silence about the deeply disturbing contents of this report. Given the immensity of the atrocity crimes revealed in this extensively documented but still officially unreleased report ("UNMIS Report on the Human Rights Situation During the Violence in Southern Kordofan"), it is imperative that the UN make clear who knew what, and when.

The UN Dispatch, a UN News and Commentary forum, cited SSP in "Mass Graves in Sudan" on Monday, July 18. (source)

Based on the photos and the eyewitness accounts, there is pretty compelling evidence of a mass grave. This should not come as too much of a surprise, though. Mass graves are a byproduct of ethnic cleansing, which almost certainly occurred in this region in mid-June.

This visual evidence is so important because there is basically no way to access the area right now. International NGOs were forced to pull out amid fighting, and the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in the region was kicked out of the country on July 9.

Also on Monday, July 18, BBC News Africa published a story, "Sudan's South Kordofan fighting: UN warns of war crimes," noting SSP's contributions to the allegations of crimes against humanity. (source)

Last week, the Satellite Sentinel project, a campaign group set up by Hollywood star George Clooney, said it had visual evidence of three mass graves in South Kordofan.

Our reporter says the findings of the UN investigators will increase pressure on President Omar al-Bashir and his government.

The ICC has already issued an arrest warrant for Mr Bashir for alleged genocide and crimes against humanity during the separate eight-year conflict in Sudan's Darfur region.

On Tuesday, July 19, Al Jazeera English again reported on SSP. "Leaked report hints at Sudan war crimes: Satellite images appear to show mass graves, body bags and Sudanese forces in South Kordofan region." (source)

 

 

United Press International (UPI) published "Khartoum denies South Kordofan claims" on Tuesday, July 19th. (source)

The Satellite Sentinel Project last week said it had visual evidence that it claimed showed mass graves in South Kordofan that could be the result of ethnic violence in the region.

Daffa Alla el-Haj Ali Osman, the Sudanese envoy to the United Nations, told al-Jazeera anti-government forces, not civilians, were the target of operations in South Kordafan, now on Sudan's side of the border.

"I can assure you that there was not a single civilian casualty during those operations,"; he said.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Sudan in what al-Jazeera described as a leaked report also documented witness accounts of alleged atrocities in South Kordofan.

U.N. officials said their hands are tied because they don't have the mandate to intervene.

The Anglican Journal, an Episcopal news service, reported "New mass graves in South Sudan"; on July 19. (source)

Richard Parkins, director of the American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan (AFRECS), said in a statement e-mailed to Episcopal News Service that he understands that "the scene of the mass killings, the presence of bodies and body bags and mass graves" is adjacent to the Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS) compound in Kadugli. Many members of the Diocese of Kadugli are believed to be among the dead.

On Thursday, July 21, Matt Brown and Laura Heaton of the Enough Project guest blogged for the Christian Science Monitor's Africa Monitor, "Nubans trapped in northern Sudanese territory." (source)

After learning that helicopter gunships were “hunting” people who were trying to escape Kadugli toward SPLA positions, Peter and his family opted to travel out of town via the northern route. He credits this counter-intuitive decision with saving their lives...Weeks ago Peter's friend called him distraught about the mass graves near Tilo primary school that were recently pinpointed by satellite images. "He saw mass graves with his own eyes. He saw people loaded into trucks (...) and one morning he counted more than 20 bodies." There were other small graves as well with six or seven bodies, Peter's friend told him.

 

 

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