Mass Graves in Sudan

This image comes from the Satellite Sentinel Project, which is a collaboration between several NGOs (and founded by George Clooney) to keep an eye in the sky above Sudan.  Earlier this month and last month, as the government of Sudan embarked on an intense ethnic cleansing campaign in South Kordofan, the Satellite Sentinel Project captured these two pictures of the same area in South Kordofan.

The one on the right was snapped after eyewitnesses reported seeing bulldozers clearing large ditches and depositing bodies into those ditches.

Large green trucks were moving back and forth from the site. The eyewitness claims that dead bodies had been picked up from the market area of Kadugli and from El Gardud and Tilo villages in Kadugli around that time.

Men at the site were reportedly unloading dead bodies from the trucks and depositing them in the open pits. The individual claims to have seen some bodies in what appeared to be bags that were “white” and “plastic,” others were in light brown bags made of a different kind of material. Some bodies were not in any type of body bag or wrapping.

SAF soldiers prevented the individual from getting closer to the site at that time. The eyewitness said that he estimated that 100 or more bodies were deposited at the site on the evening of 8 June.

The individual says that killings have continued in Kadugli town since 8 June and bodies in the town have been collected, but it is unknown where the remains have been taken. There are some bodies, according to the witness, allegedly still present in a forest to the south of Kadugli.

Based on the photos and the eyewitness accounts, there is pretty compelling evidence of a mass grave.  This should not come as too much of a surprise, though. Mass graves are a byproduct of ethnic cleansing, which almost certainly occurred in this region in mid-June.

This visual evidence is so important because there is basically no way to access the area right now. International NGOs were forced to pull out amid fighting, and the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in the region was kicked out of the country on July 9.

So what is next? Unfortunately, there is little that the international community can do at the moment.  The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights wants to send a team of investigators, but the the government of Sudan probably will not issue them visas.  Further, even if there was indisputable evidence of war crimes, accountability for war crimes seems far off. Both the governor of the region in which the atrocities occurred and the president of Sudan have outstanding arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court.  Basically, the only option right now seems for the international community to not forget about these war crimes victims, and at a future time when Sudan opens up, pursue justice then.