Special Report: Evidence of Burial of Human Remains in Kadugli, South Kordofan

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The Satellite Sentinel Project’s (SSP) identification on 14 July 2011 of a cluster of white bundles in Kadugli as consistent with human remains wrapped in white plastic tarps or body bags was controversial at the time. Although publicly questioned by a US government official, it has now been established by SSP through the collection of additional imagery and eyewitness reports.

This report presents more visual evidence and new information by eyewitnesses who spoke directly to SSP of the collection and burial of human remains wrapped in tarps and/or body bags by the Sudanese Red Crescent Society (SRCS). The bundles were buried at an additional two new apparent mass graves in and around Kadugli.

To date, SSP has identified a total of eight mass graves in and around Kadugli, as well as evidence of corpses wrapped in what appear to be body bags and/or tarps at four sites. Also, SSP’s imagery of apparent mass graves has been reviewed by Stefan Schmitt, International Forensic Program Director for Physicians for Human Rights, who has concluded that the images "provide enough credible evidence to suggest the presence of mass graves."

Despite the visual evidence corroborating the eyewitness accounts, as well as images of three mounds consis-tent with reported mass graves nearby, the US government claimed that SSP’s satellite imagery provided "no clear evidence of mass graves." In a 20 July 2011 Washington Post article, "US Government Cannot Confirm Mass Graves in Sudan," a US government official stated that, "What they (SSP) identify as body bags, we see those same items in those same places before the fighting started." [1] The US government has released no eye-witness report or imagery in support of its assertion.

SSP has determined, though, that these same items were not present in those same places on 7 June or 17 June or 20 July. Since the 14 July report, SSP has published reports from additional eyewitnesses who have seen corpses wrapped in what appear to be white body bags or white plastic tarps. And satellite imagery shows the dumping and subsequent burials of what appear to be white bundles of human dimensions, wrapped in some sort of tarps, and bent in the shapes of the letters "C" or "J," consistent with human bodies bent at the waist or knees, on a remote, wooded mountainside.

Statements and press releases by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the SRCS, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have also confirmed that mass body recovery and disposal operations have been occurring in Kadugli. A 1 July report released by IFRC verifies that the SRCS, reportedly acting on instructions from the Government of South Kordofan, has been actively collecting dead bodies in Kadugli town, and had at least 415 body bags and 2,000 plastic tarps recently transferred to it from the IFRC prior to the fighting in June. By the end of June, the SRCS was publicly saying it needed more body bags.

This, paired with a 7 July statement by the ICRC stating that it “provided Sudanese Red Crescent emergency action teams with technical advice on the management of dead bodies, and with the body bags they needed to recover the dead,” corroborates SSP’s assertion that the white or light-colored objects are consistent with body bags. Additionally, an 18 August statement by the executive director of the SRCS in South Kordofan says that the locality of Kadugli had provided a loader for excavation.

It is now two months since reports of the systematic killing of civilians in Kadugli by Government of Sudan-aligned forces first emerged. The debate continues about what further steps the US and the international community should take in response to the gross violations of human rights that have been reported. What should no longer be debated, however, is that these alleged crimes, including mass killing and subsequent mass burial of the dead, have happened and continue to occur.

[1] Mary Beth Sheridan, Rebecca Hamilton, and Colum Lynch. “U.S. government cannot confirm mass graves in Sudan.” Washington Post 20 July 2011. http://wapo.st/qostc0 Ambassador Princeton Lyman, US Special Envoy for Sudan, said, “We can’t confirm the conclusion in the Sentinel project that there are mass graves in Kadugli.” Ambassador Lyman also said that “we’re deeply concerned” and “what [SSP] identify as body bags, we see those same items in those same places before the fighting started.”