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Rebel town overrun in Sudan's Blue Nile

Satellite photos are being used to reveal attacks on civilian populations and the location of mass graves. Photo/Satellite Sentinel Project

Spying eyes from space

This week on Dispatches, Rick MacInnes-Rae interviewed Jonathan Hutson of the Satellite Sentinel Project about using satellite photos to monitor human rights abuses and war crimes.  Jonathan said Kurmuk, in the Blue Nile state of southern Sudan, is a place where they could see Sudanese troops massing against rebels and threatening civilians.

Jonathan Hutson's interview

Since we aired that interview, Sudanese forces have indeed taken Kurmuk, he reports.

Sudan's Defence Ministry posted an ominously-worded statement on its website saying it is now "cleansing the town."

A rebel spokesman confirms their retreat, but says "this is not the end of the war in Blue Nile (state.)"

In October Jared Ferrie reported to Dispatches from the rebel positions of Kurmuk, where he saw that the "next" southern Sudanese civil war had already begun.  Sudanese planes were routinely bombing rebels and civilians, and the rebels were poised -- armed and well trained.

The responsibility to protect 

Rick met Jonathan at a conference in Montreal recently, where they were talking about
the responsibility of all nations to protect people being harmed by one of their own -- called by the UN "The Resonsibility To Protect". It's something, advocates say, that trumps sovereignty on the world stage. 

This tall bearded guy, Rick remembers, was describing an effort to detect war crimes being committed in Sudan and to deter those who might commit others, by using satellite images.

Listening to him was like hearing a CSI script read aloud.  Mass graves sought and found with forensic precision. 

The Satellite Sentinel Project was begun last year by actor George Clooney, and the American organization known as "ENOUGH - The Project To End Genocide And Crimes Against Humanity." 

Follow this link to all of this week's Dispatches show

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