African satellites track human rights crimes

This past week, George Clooney announced an expansion to the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP), an initiative he co-founded three years ago with the Enough Project’s John Prendergast. The satellite project uses satellite imagery to monitor and warn against human rights abuses in war-torn Africa.

As conflicts in Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, and the surrounding region become more linked with regional criminal networks, SSP will widen its focus to undertake forensic investigations that attempt to reveal how those who are committing mass atrocities are funding their activities and where they are hiding their stolen assets.

Clooney said: “We want to follow the money and find out how these atrocities are funded, who enables them, and what the smart tools are to counter these activities more effectively. Genocide and other human rights crimes are never just spontaneous events. They require planning, they require financing, and they require international indifference to succeed.  Where is the money coming from and where is it being hidden? To the extent we can, we want to make it more difficult for those willing to kill en masse to secure their political and economic objectives, and we want to move the needle away from indifference and inaction.”

The other co-founder of the SSP, John Prendergast, said: “We’ll focus on imposing a cost on those that contribute to or facilitate the perpetration of these human rights crimes.”

[The Christian Science Monitor] 

Humanitarian groups urge action on Central African Republic

Citing fears of genocide, representatives of humanitarian organizations tried Thursday to focus U.S. lawmakers’ attention on the Central African Republic, where the situation is on the verge of exploding into a “decades-long conflict,” one aid group said.

Mercy Corps believes “right now is the time to act, and we are asking Congress to make smart, forward-thinking decisions,” said Madeline Rose, a policy adviser to the group, in a telephone interview prior to addressing the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on African Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations.

The group fears “that the current crisis in CAR is on the verge of metastasizing into a new, decades-long conflict,” she added. At least 2,000 people have died in the fighting, and 2.2 million others — about half the country’s population — need humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations.

The continuing violence has raised the specter of genocide, as occurred 20 years ago in Rwanda.

“Do not repeat the mistakes of the past — heed the lessons,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last month during a visit to the country.

Catholic Relief Services Chief Operating Officer Sean Callahan. “The world stood by as nearly one million people were killed in Rwanda 20 yrs ago, and we cannot let the violence tear the social fabric of CAR,” he said.

Rose agreed. “We’ve seen this over and over again in the way the international community responds to crises like these — where we focus too narrowly on short-term, emergency needs and don’t take a step back to make long-term, strategic investments and decisions about how to solve the root problem.”

[CNN]