Satellite Sentinel Project Documents Evidence of Possible War Crimes in Abyei, Sudan

WASHINGTON – The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has released a new report analyzing satellite imagery and photographs which corroborate reports of organized looting by Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and Misseriya militia. A DigitalGlobe satellite image taken May 24 captures vehicles traveling on the Diffra road north of Abyei, carrying what appears to be irregular payloads.

Exclusive photographs of occupied Abyei town, taken May 23, released by the Enough Project and analyzed in this report by SSP, show both uniformed SAF forces and armed, irregular forces loading vehicles with items apparently taken from homes and other civilian buildings in Abyei. The irregular payloads apparently present on the vehicles heading away from Abyei town are consistent with the photographs and reports of people from northern Sudan looting items left behind by tens of thousands of civilians who have fled the town.

"This is the pattern the Sudan government has followed in Darfur, during the North-South war, and in Abyei itself in the regime's 2008 attack," said Enough Project Co-founder John Prendergast.  "Part of the reward for the soldiers and militia who carry out population-clearing operations is the pillaging and, at times, the physical occupation of targeted properties.  Another transfer of assets is underway right now in Abyei, and it remains to be seen whether demographic changes will be solidified through occupation.  The UN peacekeeping mission has front-row seats to the looting and razing, but is largely powerless to stop it.  The Sudanese regime's intent is to make it very difficult for the indigenous residents of Abyei to ever return home again."

"The evidence of alleged looting by apparent uniformed SAF forces and armed, northern-aligned militias represents a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions and can constitute a war crime," states the SSP report. 

"The Geneva Conventions prohibit looting and razing," stated Harvard Carr Center Executive Director Charlie Clements, MD. "Under international humanitarian law, the Government of Sudan bears the responsibility to maintain law and order in Abyei and prevent its forces and all armed actors operating in areas of its control from wanton theft or destruction of property."


Read the latest SSP report:

View or download the DigitalGlobe satellite imagery:

View or download the Enough Project photos of looting and burning in Abyei town:


About the Satellite Sentinel Project

The Satellite Sentinel Project,,combines satellite imagery analysis and field reports with Google’s Map Makerto deter the resumption of full-scale civil war between North and South Sudan. Not On Our Watchprovided seed money to launch SSP. The Enough Project contributes field reportsand policy analysis, and, together with Not On Our Watch and our Sudan Nowpartners, pressures policymakers by urging the public to act. UNOSAT analyzessatellite images and collaborates with Google and Trellon to design the webplatform. Harvard Humanitarian Initiative provides research and leads thecollection, human rights analysis, and corroboration of on-the-ground reportsthat contextualizes the imagery. DigitalGlobe provides satellite imagery andadditional analysis.