Satellite Sentinel News Roundup 9/2

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.

The New Yorker posted “Mass Graves and George Clooney,” by Alexis Okeowo, on Tuesday, August 30. (Source)

Last month, Clooney’s Satellite Sentinel Project, which he set up last year to monitor the government’s armed activity for signs of renewed civil war between north and the newly created South Sudan, released images of what it called a mass grave, and cited witness testimony that the Sudan Armed Forces had systematically been killing civilians and disposing of their bodies in the grave in South Kordofan, which is located in Sudan, and borders South Sudan. Other freshly dug pits were nearby. The area, which is nestled in the Nuba Mountains, has seen the government trying to forcefully quell dissent in recent months by bombing civilians and sending in troops. (The Nuba minority has traditionally been allied with Southern rebels.) Sudan’s government denied the charges. The satellite project has now released images of additional mass graves in South Kordofan, bringing the alleged number to a total of eight….

I was skeptical of Clooney’s Sudan activism, the latest case of a celebrity visiting a war-torn land and posing for photos with hungry children. But his satellite-monitoring project is far more than a publicity ploy. Not only do we have evidence of continuing atrocities, but Sudan may also finally be paying attention to international pressure. The country has said it will allow U.N. teams to enter South Kordofan and investigate the human rights situation—though the government is organizing the mission—and Sudanese President Omar Bashir called for a two-week ceasefire in the state last Tuesday.

On August 30, a Reuters wire story, “Rights groups: Aerial strikes kill 26 in Sudan,” also noted SSP’s contributions to the mounting evidence of war crimes in South Kordofan. (source)

A U.S. monitoring group said last week that satellite imagery found two more mass graves in South Kordofan, bringing the total number of graves sited there to eight.

On Wednesday, August 31, GlobalPost ran an op-ed, “Sudan: Irrefutable and nearly immediate proof of war crimes in Sudan,” co-authored by Enough Project Executive Director John C. Bradshaw and Charlie Clements, MD, Executive Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. (source)

The latest war criminal to be caught in the act is a serial offender: Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir. The attacks launched during the past three months by Bashir’s armed forces on Abyei, the contested border region between Sudan and the new Republic of South Sudan, and in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan state have the hallmarks of the tactics his regime used in Darfur. Similar attacks on civilians, forced displacements, and destruction of livelihoods in Darfur eventually led to charges of genocide against Bashir by the International Criminal Court. 

Unlike in previous cases of attacks on civilians by Bashir’s regime, we don’t need to wait for fragmentary reports from the ground to be investigated to piece together what happened. This time, we have publicly available satellite imagery that shows what happened almost in real time.

Also on August 31, CNN published “Rights groups accuse Sudan of ‘indiscriminate’ bombings,” stating that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, had denounced SSP’s latest report. (source)

The reports come a week after a U.S. satellite project said it has found evidence of additional mass graves in the state capital of Kadugli . That same week, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir called for a unilateral cease-fire in the state…

Al-Bashir rejected the findings of mass graves as propaganda from the west and called for a two-week, unilateral cease-fire in the state, saying the government would assess the situation after that period.

 

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