New York: Amnesty International is using satellite technology to monitor the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur in a bid to prevent future attacks on civilians.
The watchdog’s US chapter said it was the first time human rights monitors had used such technology to track possible targets of attack, prevent future atrocities and potentially save lives.
Amnesty was inviting ordinary people worldwide to help protect 12 villages considered at risk of attacks by the government-backed Janjaweed militia by monitoring images on the project’s website at www.eyesondarfur.org.
Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty USA, said the group wanted to send a message to Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir that the world was watching, and urged Beshir to accept a UN-mandated African Union peacekeeping force.
“Darfur needs peacekeepers to stop the killing. In the meantime, we are taking advantage of satellite technology to tell president al-Bashir that we will be watching closely to expose any new violations,” Cox said.
“Our goal is to continue to put pressure on Sudan to allow the peacekeepers to deploy and to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable civilians on the ground in Darfur,” he added in a statement.
The four-year conflict in Darfur has left at least 200,000 people dead and forced more than two million people from their homes, according to the United Nations. Sudan disputes those estimates, saying 9,000 people have died.
The Eyes on Darfur images come from commercial satellites and would allow activists to track developments as they occur, Amnesty said. While the images would not be live, they would only be a matter of a few days old.
The images will show destroyed huts, massing soldiers or fleeing refugees. It will allow researchers to alert humanitarian officials on the ground if they spotted soldiers massing in an area.
“The technology will also give Amnesty International ample opportunity to expand its traditional role of shining a light on human rights violations,” said Ariela Blatter, director of the Crisis Prevention and Response Center at Amnesty USA.