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George Clooney's satellite project shows new evidence of mass burials in Sudan.
BOSTON — The Sudan government killed large numbers of civilians in troubled South Kordofan state and the bodies were buried in mass graves by the Sudanese Red Crescent Society, according to the Satellite Sentinel Project.
The new charges and evidence of mass human rights atrocities committed by the Sudan government in South Kordofan province are expected to increase calls on the United Nations to take action to protect civilian lives.
“There is no doubt that multiple mass graves were dug and filled in South Kordofan,” said Nathaniel Raymond, director of operations for the Satellite Sentinel Project at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. “The only question now is what is the international community going to do about it?”
Raymond analyzed the high altitude images and said the photos corroborate eyewitness reports of mass killings and burials.
“These bodies needed disposing of because of alleged systematic mass killings by the government of Sudan,” said Raymond to GlobalPost. “The images are consistent with eyewitness reports of the deaths of many, many people … The satellite images and reports of survivors and witnesses consistently told the same story of slaughter.”
“The satellite images and reports of witnesses consistently told the same story of slaughter.”~Nathaniel Raymond, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative
More from GlobalPost: Sudan accused of war crimes in South Kordofan
Eight mass graves have been identified in South Kordofan by the satellite project, which was set up by Hollywood actor George Clooney to monitor events in Sudan using aerial photos as well as on the ground reports. “Evidence of the Burial of Human Remains in Kadugli" is the satellite project's report issued today.
Large numbers of ethnic Nuba people in South Kordofan state were rounded up by the Sudan army and taken away in trucks, according to human rights reports. The trucks returned empty and the people have not been seen again, according to eyewitnesses who spoke to the United Nations and human rights groups.
Civilians suspected of opposing the Sudan government were rounded up from their homes in Kadugli and other towns in South Kordofan province, according to the eyewitness reports. People were also detained at roadblocks, according to the reports.
Sudan President Omar al-Bashir’s government has already been accused of carrying out mass killings in South Kordofan state in a United Nations report issued earlier this month. The U.N. report said that atrocities had been committed on both sides, but it charged the army's actions were "especially egregious" and included summary executions, aerial bombardments and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods.
South Kordofan is an oil producing province that borders the newly independent nation of South Sudan. South Kordofan's Nuba people in recent elections voted for the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement, the opposition party aligned with the government of South Sudan.
It is alleged that Bashir’s government is trying to wipe out support for that party by arresting and killing members and any Nuba people believed to be supporters. This amounts to ethnic cleansing in South Kordofan, charge human rights groups.
Bashir’s government in Khartoum denies the charges, claiming that it is merely trying to disarm anti-government rebels. There are some armed rebels in the Nuba Mountains who are fighting the Sudan Army, but the presence of eight mass graves, three of which measure some 75 by 15 feet, points to the killings of a large number of civilians rather than a small band of rebels.
The Bashir government denies the new charges of abuse and dismisses the satellite project's new photos of mass graves.
“The pictures do not show the truth,” said Rabie A. Atti, a Sudanese government spokesman, to the New York Times. “Behind them I think it is the rebels that falsify such rumors, to bring the international community to intervene in this domestic crisis.”
Bashir's government Tuesday announced a two-week ceasefire in South Kordofan, according to Reuters. The government statement expressly forbid independent journalists and international aid organizations from operating in the area. The government said that only the Sudanese Red Crescent Society could work in the area.
The Sudanese Red Crescent Society dug mass graves and filled them with corpses, according to the satellite project. It is within the mandate of the Red Cross or Red Crescent to bury dead bodies during a conflict, according to the Geneva Conventions. However, according to human rights advocates, the question is whether all the bodies