George Clooney’s satellites keep watch over South Sudan

As South Sudan’s referendum on whether it should part company with the North enters its second day, satellites are monitoring the region for human rights abuses — an initiative of the actor George Clooney.

The Satellite Sentinel project — a joint experiment by the UN’s Operational Satellite Applications Programme, Harvard University, the Enough Project, which focuses on human rights, and a group of Hollywood funders gathered by Clooney — is hiring private satellites to monitor troop movements.

The images are being analysed and made public on the Internet to remind the leaders of Northern and Southern Sudan that they are being watched.

“We are the anti-genocide paparazzi,” Clooney said. “We want them to enjoy the level of celebrity attention that I usually get.”

Sentinel launched with US$750,000 from Clooney’s human rights organisation Not On Our Watch.

The images can depict about 50 square centimetres of the ground per pixel on a computer screen, which allows analysts to tell the difference between cars and trucks and track the movements of troops, but not to identify a person.

“Generally, what we have done in the past is an after-the-fact documentation exercise,” said Lars Bromley, an imagery analyst with the UN. “This is proactive, wide-area monitoring.”

Clooney believes Sentinel might have applications in other global hot spots.

“This is as if this were in 1943 and we had a camera inside Auschwitz and we said: OK, if you guys don’t want to do anything about it, that’s one thing, but you can’t say you did not know,” he said.

Link to full article in TIME magazine

Source – SciDev.Net – 10 January 2011