Satellite Images Show Grave Crimes Continue in DarfurFebruary 2, 2011 • By Christoph Koettl
While the whole world is watching the outcome of the South Sudan referendum, Darfur continues to burn. New satellite images released by Amnesty’s Science for Human Rights Program provide shocking evidence that grave human rights violations continue in Darfur 8 years after the outbreak of the conflict. The situation has deteriorated in the run up to the referendum in South Sudan last month.
More alarmingly, the escalation in violence has been largely ignored by the international community, which is focusing on the formation of a new state in the south of the country.
The Negeha region of South Darfur
The images were analyzed by our partners from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and show irrefutably that civilians were targeted in the Negeha region of south Darfur with whole villages burned to the ground as recently as December. We have previously reported that in December alone more than 20,000 people were displaced by government attacks, including in Dar Al Salam, Shangil Tobaya and Khor Abeche displacement camps in north and south Darfur.
Based on new reports of offensives in the Negeha region in December 2010, we sought to document any apparent violations of international law through the targeting of civilian dwellings. According to reports, the villages of Negeha and Jaghara were burned in December 2010, resulting in more than 7,000 internally displaced persons. Satellite imagery of the region was collected and compared from three time periods: December 2005, January 2010, and December 2010.
In total, AAAS identified 819 individual structures as damaged or destroyed. Of these, 265 suffered damage between December 2005 and January 2010, while 554 did so between January and December 2010.
The release of the findings coincides with other recent high profile uses of satellite imagery in connection with the referendum, and builds on our three-year-old Eyes on Darfur project. It is a continuation of several years of work to use geospatial tools for human rights monitoring.
Where is the commitment to justice?
The new images are a painful reminder of the collective failure of the international community to ensure accountability for the crimes committed in Darfur. Referring to the recent UN assistance for Ahmed Haroun—wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court―Scott Edwards, Amnesty International USA Africa Advocacy Director made the following statement (which I believe leaves nothing to add):
When the United Nations Mission in Sudan gives a ride to one of the alleged architects of systematic murder, rape, and torture in Darfur, we have to question the current state of commitment to justice for Darfur. It then becomes easier to understand why the crimes documented in the Negeha analysis continue unabated. Impunity—that’s what the satellite imagery currently shows.
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