NEW YORK (AFP)
Hollywood heart throb and activist George Clooney on Tuesday said
Sudanese government forces are committing war crimes with attacks
on civilians -- including a rocket strike that he narrowly
"There's a difference between two armies fighting and what the
Geneva Convention calls war crimes," Clooney told a foreign
policy think tank in New York hours after arriving back in the
United States from a visit to the Nuba mountains region.
"We saw that very specifically happening on two occasions: rape,
starvation, lack of humanitarian aid. They're scaring the hell
out of these people and they're killing, hoping and trying to get
them just to leave," he said.
Clooney has long called attention to the war between Sudan and
newly independent South Sudan. On a trip in January he contracted
malaria. On this trip the risks were even greater, he said.
While visiting villagers hiding in caves since the start of a
government aerial bombing campaign, Clooney and his activist
colleague John Prendergast, were told quickly to take cover, he
Thinking that the warning referred to a slow-moving government
Antonov plane, Clooney said they failed to hurry. "But it wasn't
an Antonov. It was a rocket and it went boom. We were looking for
that area and we got there, but we weren't expecting rockets," he
told the audience at the Council on Foreign Relations, which was
packed for the event.
Clooney and Prendergast, who together co-founded the Satellite
Sentinel Project, showed the rapt audience of foreign policy
experts a video they'd made in the Nuba mountains.
Shown wearing a baseball cap and unshaven, Clooney looked little
like most of the characters he plays on the big screen. In one
segment he stands over a corpse, along with the text written:
"How many more bodies?"
Other footage shows locals in front of huge rock piles. "For the
first time since the stone age, people are living in caves," the
Clooney and Prendergast left late Tuesday for Washington where
they will report on their trip to Congress and to President
Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Clooney said the key to pressuring Sudanese President Omar
al-Beshir, who is wanted for war crimes and genocide by the
International Criminal Court (ICC), is China, a big client for
South Sudanese oil.
"China has investments in there, but right now China is pretty
ticked off," Clooney said. "There's some movement here. There's
an opportunity," he said.
"What I'd like is for the president to send a high-level envoy to
China," he said. "We believe there's a moment in time when we can
have a non-adversarial relationship with them."
Sudan was split into two countries in July last year but have
been in constant dispute since. Before the divorce, the north and
south fought a two decade civil war in which more than two
million people died.
Sudan's forces overran the disputed territory of Abyei in May
last year and have been accused of staging air attacks on the
South. The Khartoum government in turn accuses the South's
government of backing rebels in its South Kordofan and Blue Nile