Clooney calls for global action as he unveils South Sudan corruption report

US actor George Clooney takes part in a press conference in central London after presenting a report on atrocities in South Sudan. (AFP)
Updated 19 September 2019

Clooney calls for global action as he unveils South Sudan corruption report

  • Clooney called on the US and EU to target those involved and their networks with tougher sanctions as his Africa-focused investigative project The Sentry released its latest findings
  • The report accuses Dar Petroleum Corp, the largest multinational oil consortium in South Sudan — led by a Chinese state-owned oil company — of providing support to deadly militias

LONDON: Hollywood star George Clooney on Thursday urged the international community to “step up” as he unveiled a report alleging links between global corporations, tycoons and governments and rampant corruption in South Sudan which has extracted billions of dollars in profits.
Clooney called on the United States and European Union to target those involved and their networks with new and tougher sanctions as his Africa-focused investigative project The Sentry released its latest findings on webs of corruption in the country.
“I believe they should do much more,” he told a news conference in London with his prominent human rights lawyer wife Amal Clooney seated in the front row.
“I don’t know if they can stop it but they can sure make it a lot harder,” said Clooney, a longtime campaigner for human rights in the region, best known for his advocacy in Sudan’s western region of Darfur.
The actor and activist co-founded The Sentry in 2015 with former US official John Prendergast.
Its 64-page report — “The Taking of South Sudan” — accuses multinational corporations and individuals of being “war profiteers” complicit with South Sudanese politicians and military officials in “ravaging the world’s newest nation.”
“Nearly every instance of confirmed or alleged corruption or financial crime in South Sudan examined by The Sentry has involved links to an international corporation, a multinational bank, a foreign government or high-end real estate abroad,” it stated.
Clooney said the profiteers include “Chinese and Malaysian oil giants, British tycoons, and American businessmen.”
“Without their support these atrocities could never have happened at this scale,” he added.
The report accuses Dar Petroleum Corp, the largest multinational oil consortium in South Sudan — led by a Chinese state-owned oil company — of providing “direct support to deadly militias.”
Meanwhile Chinese investors formed a company with South Sudan President Salva Kiir’s daughter and acquired several mining licenses in the country just weeks before the military reportedly drove thousands of people from the land where they held a permit, the research claims.
AFP sought comment from the consortium and the government, but they declined to comment, noting they had not read the report.
The probe also alleged an American arms trafficker tried to sell a trove of weapons to a South Sudanese warlord, and two British citizens formed an oil company with a warlord accused of forcibly recruiting thousands of child soldiers.
It said a $65 million scandal involving a South Sudanese general and a British tycoon illustrated “the impunity enjoyed by kleptocrats and their international collaborators.”
The Sentry is composed of financial investigators, international human rights lawyers, and regional experts as well as former law enforcement agents, intelligence officers, policymakers, investigative journalists and banking professionals.
It has previously reported on corruption and human rights abuses by South Sudan’s civilian and military leaders, but Clooney said its new strategy was to “follow the money.”
“If you can’t shame them (officials), then you can shame the people who do business with them,” he told reporters.
“You can make it difficult for certain financial institutions to look the other way.
“That can be an effective tool — a much more effective tool than trying to shame a warlord.”


French officers detained after fury over beating video

Updated 45 min 44 sec ago

French officers detained after fury over beating video

  • Images published by the Loopsider website show how music producer Michel Zecler was repeatedly beaten by police
  • Celebrities including football World Cup winners Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann condemned the beating

PARIS: French authorities on Friday detained four officers suspected of beating and racially abusing a black music producer in Paris in a case that has shocked President Emmanuel Macron and drawn outrage from celebrities and sports stars.
Images published by the Loopsider website show how music producer Michel Zecler was repeatedly beaten by police for several minutes and subjected to racial abuse as he tried to enter his music studio Saturday evening.
Celebrities including football World Cup winners Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann condemned the beating, while French star singer Aya Nakamura said she wished the producer strength, adding “thank you to those who filmed.”
A presidential official said Friday that Macron, too, was “very shocked” by the images.
The incident raised questions over the future of Paris police chief Didier Lallement, already in the spotlight after the controversial forced removal of a migrant camp in Paris earlier in the week.
It also put the government on the backfoot as it tries to push through new security legislation that would restrict the right of the media to publish the faces of police agents.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who is in charge of the police forces, told French television that the officers tarnished the reputation of France’s security forces.
The four officers, all men, were detained for questioning on Friday, a source close to the case told AFP.
The officers, who had already been suspended from duty, were being held at the National Police Inspectorate General (IGPN), and prosecutors opened an investigation into violence by a person in authority and false testimony, the source said.
Three of the four were being questioned on suspicion of “violence with a racist motive” committed intentionally in a group, prosecutors said. The fourth is being questioned on suspicion of using violence but is not accused of racism.
Zecler was initially himself detained for causing violence, but prosecutors threw out that probe and began investigating the officers instead.
Macron on Thursday held talks with Darmanin to call for tough punishments for those involved in the beating, a government source added.
“Nausea,” said the front page headline in the leftist Liberation daily over a close-up picture of Zecler’s swollen and bloodied face.
“The new video of a rare ferocity... adds to a problem fed over the last months by a succession of blunders and a tendency to revert to authoritarian tendencies,” it said.
The death in US police custody of George Floyd in May and the Black Lives Matter movement have reverberated in France where allegations of brutality against police officers are commonplace, particularly in poor and ethnically diverse urban areas.
“French police has a structural problem with violence, violence that is committed against visible minorities,” Fabien Jobard, a sociologist, told AFP.
“Unbearable video, unacceptable violence,” Mbappe wrote on Twitter next to a picture of the injured producer. “Say no to racism.”
The outcry comes after the lower house of parliament on Tuesday evening approved a security bill which would restrict the publication of photos or videos of police officers’ faces.
Media unions say it could give police a green light to prevent journalists from potentially documenting abuses, as well as stopping social media users from posting incriminating footage.
A protest against the draft law, which has yet to pass a Senate vote, has been called for Saturday in Paris.
In a sign that the government could be preparing to backtrack, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced late Thursday that he would appoint a commission to redraft Article 24 of the law that would restrict the publication of images of the police.
But this in turn sparked accusations that the prime minister was trying to bypass the legislature.
“It is not for the government to substitute the work of an external committee in the place of parliamentary prerogatives,” the speaker of the lower house Richard Ferrand told Castex, his office said.
Macron swept to power in 2017 as a centrist who rallied support from across the political spectrum. But critics and even some supporters accuse him of tilting to the right as he seeks re-election in 2022.
“Already accused of attacking public freedoms through the security bill... the executive faces an accumulation of cases of violence and police abuse, the images of which have disturbed even the ruling party,” said Le Monde daily.