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Pillay castigates “paralysis” on Syria, as new UN study indicates over 191,000 people killed

GENEVA (22 August 2014) – An updated analysis carried out by data specialists on behalf of the UN Human Rights Office has led to the compilation of a list of 191,369 cases of individuals reported killed in Syria between March 2011 and the end of April 2014, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay announced Friday.

“With additional killings reported from earlier periods, in addition to the new killings that have taken place, the total is more than double the number documented a year ago. Nevertheless, as the report explains, tragically it is probably an underestimate of the real total number of people killed during the first three years of this murderous conflict,” Pillay said.

“I deeply regret that, given the onset of so many other armed conflicts in this period of global destabilization, the fighting in Syria and its dreadful impact on millions of civilians has dropped off the international radar,” the High Commissioner added.

The latest study – the third in a series commissioned by the UN Human Rights Office -- was conducted using a combined list of 318,910 reported killings, fully identified by the name of the victim, as well as the date and location of the death. Any reported killing that did not include at least these three elements was excluded from the list, which was compiled using datasets from five different sources1, three of which have reported killings throughout the whole three-year period, and two of which – including the Government of Syria – cover only part of the period.

Records of reported killings were compared in order to identify duplicates. After duplicates were merged, the combined dataset was reduced to 191,369 unique records of conflict-related deaths as of 30 April 2014.

The statistical analysts2 who produced all three UN reports stressed that: “The enumeration is not the complete number of conflict-related killings in Syria.” The report says that, despite the possibility of a small number of duplicate or erroneously reported deaths being included, this total is likely to underestimate the actual number of killings. This conclusion is based on the fact that 51,953 reported killings containing insufficient information were excluded from the analysis, and that there is a strong likelihood that a significant number of killings may not have been reported at all by any of the five sources.

The greatest number of documented killings was recorded in the Governorate of Rural Damascus (39,393), with the next highest numbers recorded in Aleppo (31,932), Homs (28,186), Idlib (20,040), Daraa (18,539) and Hama (14,690).

Some 85.1 percent (162,925) of the victims documented so far are male, and 9.3 percent (17,795) are female. As in the previous reports, the analysis was not able to differentiate between combatants and non-combatants. The killings of 8,803 minors, including 2,165 children under ten years old, have been documented so far and the real total is likely to be higher, given that in 83.8 percent of cases, the victim’s ages have not so far been recorded.

“It is scandalous that the predicament of the injured, displaced, the detained, and the relatives of all those who have been killed or are missing is no longer attracting much attention, despite the enormity of their suffering,” Pillay said. “It is a real indictment of the age we live in that not only has this been allowed to continue so long, with no end in sight, but it is also now impacting horrendously on hundreds of thousands of other people across the border in northern Iraq, and the violence has also spilled over into Lebanon.”

“The killers, destroyers and torturers in Syria have been empowered and emboldened by the international paralysis,” the High Commissioner said. “There are serious allegations that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed time and time again with total impunity, yet the Security Council has failed to refer the case of Syria to the International Criminal Court, where it clearly belongs. It is essential Governments take serious measures to halt the fighting and deter the crimes, and above all stop fuelling this monumental, and wholly avoidable, human
catastrophe through the provision of arms and other military supplies.”

ENDS

1 The five datasets analysed in this report were those provided by the Government of Syria (up to end March 2012 only), the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (up to end April 2013 only), the Syrian Centre for Statistics and Research, the Syrian Network for Human Rights, and the Violations Documentation Centre.

2 The analysis was carried out, on behalf of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, by the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, a non-profit organization comprising statisticians, computer scientists, demographers and social scientists with extensive experience in statistical analysis of data relating to human rights violations.

To see the latest Updated Statistical Analysis of Documentation of Killings in the Syrian Arab Republic in full, go to: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/SY/HRDAGUpdatedReportAug2014.pdf

The original Preliminary Analysis, published on 2 January 2013, can be viewed at: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/SY/PreliminaryStatAnalysisKillingsInSyria.pdf

The first Updated Analysis, published on 13 June 2013, can be viewed at:
http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/SY/HRDAG-Updated-SY-report.pdf

To view the reports of the independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria, and other materials relating to the human rights situation in the country, go to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/SYIndex.aspx

For more information or interview requests, please contact Rupert Colville (rcolville@ohchr.org / +41 22 917 9767) or Ravina Shamdasani (rshamdasani@ohchr.org / +41 22 917 9169).