Global perspective Human stories

Nearly 93,000 people killed in ‘vicious’ Syria conflict – UN human rights chief

A building severely damaged by an airstrike in Aleppo City, Syria.
OCHA/Gemma Connell
A building severely damaged by an airstrike in Aleppo City, Syria.

Nearly 93,000 people killed in ‘vicious’ Syria conflict – UN human rights chief

Warning the real figure is likely to be much higher, the United Nations human rights chief today announced that the death toll in Syria is nearly 93,000, with more than 5,000 people killed a month as the situation in the country has “deteriorated drastically” over the past year.

“The constant flow of killings continues at shockingly high levels – with more than 5,000 killings documented every month since last July, including a total of just under 27,000 new killings since 1 December,” Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human rights, said in a news release.

According to an analysis carried out by data specialists on behalf of the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR), at least 92,901 people were killed in fighting between the Government and forces seeking to oust President Bashar Al-Assad between March 2011 and April 2013.

“Unfortunately…this is most likely a minimum casualty figure. The true number of those killed is potentially much higher,” said Ms. Pillay, urging the warring parties to declare an immediate ceasefire “before tens of thousands more people are killed or injured.”

The latest compilation updates a figure of 60,000 documented deaths during the time period up to 30 November 2012.

About 80 per cent of the victims documented are male, with the sharpest increase in deaths since November 2012 in Rural Damascus and Aleppo.

The Office also documented the “the killings of at least 6,561 minors, including at least 1,729 children under ten years old.”

“There are also well-documented cases of individual children being tortured and executed, and entire families, including babies, being massacred,” Ms. Pillay said, adding that along with the devastatingly high death toll, this is a terrible reminder of “just how vicious this conflict has become.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his latest report on the status of children in armed conflicts, cited verified reports that Syrian children are killed or injured in indiscriminate bombings, shot by snipers, used as human shields or victims of terror tactics.

“Civilians are bearing the brunt of widespread, violent and often indiscriminate attacks which are devastating whole swathes of major towns and cities, as well as outlying villages,” Ms. Pillay said today noting a “drastically deteriorating pattern of the conflict” confirmed in a report by the Commission of Inquiry on Syria.

“Government forces are shelling and launching aerial attacks on urban areas day in and day out, and are also using strategic missiles and cluster and thermobaric bombs,” the UN human right chief said.

She added, “Opposition forces have also shelled residential areas, albeit using less fire-power and there have been multiple bombings resulting in casualties in the heart of cities, especially Damascus.”

Analysis of the latest death toll was carried out on behalf of OHCHR by the non-profit organization, Human Rights Dana Analysis Group, which compiled datasets from the Syrian Centre for Statistics and Research, the Government of Syria (up to March 2012 only), the Syrian Network for Human Rights, March 15 Group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Syrian Revolution General Council, the Syria Shuhada Website, and the Violations Documentation Centre.

Information from the eight different sources resulted in a combined list of 263,055 reported killings, fully identified by the name of the victim, as well as the date and location of the death, OHCHR said. Any reported killing that did not include at least these three elements was excluded from the list.

Each reported killing was then compared to all the other reported killings in order to identify duplicates, resulting in 92,091 documented cases of individuals killed.

The statistical analysts who produced the report noted that there is “a strong likelihood” that a significant number of killings may not have been reported by all eight sources and that 37,988 reported killings containing insufficient information were excluded from the analysis.