On Jan. 9, southern Sudan will vote to determine whether or not it will secede from the north. If the northern-based government of President Omar al-Bashir doesn't recognize the South's independence, the country could descend into civil war. But if George Clooney's new satellite technology project works, the country could avoid a massive human rights crisis. Clooney's brainchild, the Satellite Sentinel Project, combines satellite photographs, field reports and Google technology. The project's goal is to reveal any preparations for war, like large troop movements or weapons shipments. Clooney's hope is that making any such satellite images public will put pressure on the United States and other powerful governments to act if the situation deteriorates.
"We want to let potential perpetrators of genocide and other war crimes know that we're watching, the world is watching," said Clooney. "War criminals thrive in the dark. It's a lot harder to commit mass atrocities in the glare of the media spotlight."
Clooney has emerged as one of the most credible voices on Sudan, after visiting the troubled country several times and speaking out on the need for peace there.
The actor came up with the idea of satellite surveillance when he visited the tense border area in October. Then he pulled together the unprecedented collaboration and finance needed to make it a reality.
... The Sudan project works like this: Commercial satellites passing over the border between North and South Sudan will transmit detailed images of activities in the area. The satellite photographs will show possible threats to civilians, such as the massing of soldiers and the deliveries of weapons. The satellite photographs will also record any attacks on refugees and displaced people and will provide evidence of any violence such as bombed and razed villages.
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