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40,000 killed in last phase of Eelam war: UN

[Express Buzz, Tuesday, 19 April 2011 09:08 No Comment]

The UN panel on war crimes in Sri Lanka has estimated that up to 40,000 civilians may have been killed in the last phase of the war between government forces and the LTTE in 2009.

Sources have estimated that there could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths,” an extract from the yet to be released report, published by Colombo-based The Island newspaper, said on Monday.

The panel, however, admitted that even two years after the war, there was no certainty as to how many civilians were killed in the last gruesome phase.

Nevertheless, it maintained that  multiple sources indicated that 40,000 civilian deaths “could not be ruled out at this stage.”

Widely varying figures

Estimates of the number of civilians dead varied from 75,000 to 77,000.

The figure 75,000 was obtained by subtracting the number of people who emerged from the conflict zone from the estimate of the number thought to have been in the conflict zone added to approximately the 35,000 who emerged from the LTTE-held areas before

Hospital data

Government doctors serving in the war-zone hospitals and the district disaster management units were other key sources of information on casualties.

Depending on the ratio of injuries to deaths, estimated at various times to be 1:2 or 1:3, these figures could point to a much higher casualty figure than of the UN.

UN agencies cautious

In the panel’s view, UN organisations had shown a tendency to underestimate the casualty figures and also to refrain from making public statements on the exact death toll.

The panel attributed this to “pressure from the government and fears of losing access” to the conflict zone.   

The UN system had reported that between August 2008 and May 13, 2009, there had been 7,721 deaths.

No witness to last phase

There were no independent international witnesses of the  last phase which saw the most brutal shelling.

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