Anti-genocide eye in Sudan’s sky

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 04 January 2011, 13:52 GMT]
An organization founded by leading Hollywood figures is teaming up with Google, the United Nations and other anti-genocide organizations to launch satellite surveillance of the border between north and south Sudan. Not On Our Watch will fund the start-up phase of the ‘Satellite Sentinel Project’, which will collect real-time satellite imagery and combine it with field analysis from the Enough Project and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, publishing reports online. “We want to let potential perpetrators of genocide and other war crimes know that we’re watching, the world is watching,” George Clooney, co-founder of Not On Our Watch, said in a statement.

“War criminals thrive in the dark. It’s a lot harder to commit mass atrocities in the glare of the media spotlight,” he said.

Along with Clooney, Not On Our Watch, was co-founded by actors Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Don Cheadle, movie producer Jerry Weintraub and senior rights lawyer and strategist David Pressman, .

The project is meant to act as a kind of early warning system, monitoring the movement of troops, civilians and other signs of conflict. The UN agency and Google will then publish the analysis online.

UNOSAT (United Nations UNITAR Operational Satellite Applications Programme) leads the collection and analysis of the images and collaborates with Google and Trellon to design the web platform for the public to easily access the images and reports, says the Satellite Sentinel website.

Harvard Humanitarian Initiative provides system-wide research and leads the collection, human rights analysis, and corroboration of on-the-ground reports that contextualizes the satellite imagery.

The Enough Project contributes field reports, provides policy analysis, and, together with Not On Our Watch, puts pressure on policymakers by urging the public to act, the website says.

“We can’t allow another deadly war, and we surely cannot stand by in the face of a genocide threat,” says a statement by Clooney and Enough Project co-founder John Prendergast on the site.

“Previously, when mass atrocities occurred in Darfur, the Government of Sudan denied its involvement. Since photographers could not get access, it took years to amass evidence of genocide,” they note.

“But now we can witness in near real-time and put all parties on notice that if they commit war crimes, we will all be watching, and pressuring policymakers to take action.”

The Satellite Sentinel Project marks the first sustained, public effort to systematically monitor and report on potential hotspots and threats to security along a border, in near real-time (within 24-36 hours), with the aim of heading off humanitarian disaster and human rights crimes before they occur, the venture’s website notes.

 

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