Justice and Accountability

Satellite Sentinel Project Confirms Razing of Village in Sudan as George Clooney Helps Relaunch High-Tech Documentation of Mass Atrocities

Date: 
Jul 20, 2012

Satellite Sentinel Project Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Jonathan Hutson, jhutson@enoughproject.org, +1-202-386-1618

WASHINGTON -- The Satellite Sentinel Project, or SSP, has released new satellite imagery confirming the intentional burning of Um Bartumbu village in Sudan’s conflict-torn border region of South Kordofan. SSP’s latest report, which also includes new eyewitness reports and photos embedded with GPS codes, solves the mystery of an undated cell phone video, which appeared to show a unit of Sudanese forces called the Match Battalion razing an unnamed village.

At least 80 buildings in the Nuba Mountains village of Um Bartumbu, which appear to be consistent with civilian residential structures and comprise approximately 90 percent of the village infrastructure, were intentionally destroyed by fire, sometime between November 12 and November 28, 2011, according to Satellite Sentinel Project analysis of near infrared imagery used to detect evidence of fire.

George Clooney, who co-founded the SSP with Enough Project Co-founder John Prendergast, stated:
“Burning civilians out of their homes is a crime against humanity, caught on camera by the Satellite Sentinel Project in the sky and by citizen journalists on the ground. We’ve got irrefutable visual proof of a mass atrocity that happened last year in a village that’s not even on most maps. This partnership between DigitalGlobe and the Enough Project represents a game-changing leap forward in how to document evidence of crimes against humanity.”

Imagery was captured in November 2011 by Landsat 7 -- a satellite operated by the United States Geological Survey in a joint initiative with NASA -- and confirmed by analysis of additional imagery taken in January 2012 by DigitalGlobe. SSP’s findings corroborate new eyewitness reports, obtained June 16, that a joint unit of forces comprised of Sudan Armed Forces and Popular Defense Force, or PDF, militia members razed the village in late 2011.

In addition, SSP has obtained new videos and photographs taken by Eyes and Ears Nuba, a team of citizen journalists based in rebel-held territory in the Nuba Mountains. The team traveled to Um Bartumbu with GPS-equipped cameras on June 16, to document evidence of the razing of this village, which sits in a no-man’s-land between opposing forces in Sudan’s ongoing conflict. An Um Bartumbu elder reported that the now-abandoned village had contained 50 homesteads of Muslims and Christians, numbering approximately 250 adults, plus an unspecified number of children.

An undated cell phone video obtained by SSP from Eyes and Ears Nuba, and available on NubaReports.org, shows Sudanese forces who call themselves “Katiba Kabreet,” Sudanese Arabic for “Match Battalion,” setting fire to a village. In the video, Sudanese men fire guns and carry torches as residential compounds burn. Most wear matching uniforms and boots, and are dressed in a manner consistent with Sudan Armed Forces. Some wear mismatched uniforms and tennis shoes, and are dressed in a manner consistent with PDF militia forces.

“Matches, where are the matches? Burn this house,” one soldier commands in Sudanese Arabic. A group of soldiers stands in front of a grinding mill, and discusses whether to loot the food inside before setting fire to the mill. Humanitarian sources interviewed by the Enough Project confirmed that Um Bartumbu hosted a grinding mill, as well as a clinic, a mosque, storage facilities, and a Sudanese Church of Christ.

Enough Project Co-founder John Prendergast stated:
“The continuing bombing and starving of the residents of South Kordofan and Blue Nile state must be addressed more forcefully by the United Nations Security Council. It is not enough to press for a deal between Sudan and South Sudan. There also must be a process dealing with the conflict in Sudan that addresses the political grievances of the people of these regions as well as Darfur and the East. Absent that comprehensive approach, there will be no sustainable peace between the Sudans, and the people of Blue Nile and South Kordofan will continue to be hammered.”

The multi-media report marks SSP’s first published research on evidence of war crimes since the conclusion of the project’s successful 18-month pilot phase in June. On July 18, SSP published an evaluation of its formation, goals and accomplishments to date. A team of professional geospatial analysts based at the DigitalGlobe Analysis Center in Longmont, Colorado, has replaced the team at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, which led SSP’s imagery analysis efforts since the launch of its pilot phase on December 29, 2010.

Download or view the DigitalGlobe satellite imagery, together with new photos obtained by SSP from Eyes and Ears Nuba: http://www.flickr.com/photos/enoughproject/sets/72157630562277682/

Download or view the latest SSP report, “Match Battalion: Confirmation of the Razing of Um Bartumbu Village, South Kordofan, Sudan”: http://satsentinel.org/report/match-battalion-confirmation-razing-um-bartumbu-village-south-kordofan-sudan-report

Download or view SSP’s previous report on its 18-month pilot phase, “Making the World a Witness: Report on the Pilot Phase”: http://www.satsentinel.org/report/making-world-witness-report-pilot-phase-report

Download or view Eyes and Ears Nuba reports and photographs at http://www.NubaReports.org

Download or view undated cell phone video filmed by the Match Battalion and obtained by SSP from Eyes and Ears Nuba: http://www.youtube.com/user/SatelliteSentinel

About the Satellite Sentinel Project

The Satellite Sentinel Project, or SSP, a partnership between the Enough Project and DigitalGlobe, conducts monitoring of the border between Sudan and South Sudan to assess the human security situation, identify potential threats to civilians, and detect, deter and document war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Enough Project provides field research, policy context, and communications strategy. DigitalGlobe provides imagery from its constellation of satellites and geospatial analysis from the DigitalGlobe Analysis Center. SSP is funded primarily by Not On Our Watch.

 

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