Satellite Sentinel Project Releases Images Showing North Sudan War Crimes in Abyei

The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has released new visual evidence that the Government of Sudan has committed grave violations of the Geneva Conventions and other war crimes, some of which may also constitute crimes against humanity. The totality of evidence from satellites and ground sources points to state-sponsored ethnic cleansing of much of the contested Abyei region, says SSP. The evidence is being conveyed to the International Criminal Court and the UN Security Council.

George Clooney, who initiated the Satellite Sentinel Project along with Enough Project Co-founder John Prendergast, after they traveled to South Sudan in October 2010, stated:

“We focused satellites on Abyei because everyone concerned believed that if the Sudan government would try to undermine the North-South peace, it would do so through Abyei. We now have undeniable proof of the Khartoum regime’s war crimes in Abyei. We’ve captured visual evidence of the Sudan Armed Forces ransacking and razing Abyei town. This was a plan to disrupt the South’s peaceful independence that everyone knew was coming, and that moment has arrived. Now that the photographic evidence exists, what is the UN Security Council going to do? With nearly a hundred thousand displaced, when does the UN actually have a responsibility to protect?”

The Enough Project’s John Prendergast stated:

“What is happening in Abyei is what the international community feared would happen in Benghazi, Libya. We’re not advocating military intervention, but we do think the Responsibility to Protect doctrine requires more assertive action in support of ongoing emergency diplomacy. President Obama and his team should begin to develop international support for denying debt relief, referring the Abyei case to the ICC, diplomatically isolating the regime, suspending all non-humanitarian aid, obstructing state-controlled bank transactions and freezing accounts which hold oil wealth diverted by senior regime officials.”

SSP’s recent imagery and reporting documents the destruction, and confirms the positioning in Abyei town of at least 10 Sudan Armed Forces main battle tanks, mobile artillery, heavy equipment transports, infantry fighting vehicles and trucks capable of rapid forward deployment, in addition to other assets within striking distance.

“Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s analysis of international humanitarian law has concluded, based on DigitalGlobe satellite imagery, that gross violations of the Geneva Conventions and other other laws of war have been perpetrated by the Government of Sudan,” said Harvard Carr Center Executive Director Charlie Clements, MD. “Tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced. Approximately one-third of all civilian structures in Abyei town have been razed. The Sudan Armed Forces used disproportionate force and indiscriminately targeted civilians.”

Additional satellite images show the apparent deliberate destruction of Banton bridge, a key bridge south of Abyei town, whose reported demolition by SAF will make it even harder for tens of thousands of displaced people to return. Other images show the wanton destruction and theft of civilian property, including the World Food Program storage facility. Reportedly, the looters of the WFP food warehouse in Abyei town carried off 800 metric tons of food – enough to feed 50,000 people for three months.