In Sri Lanka, Civilians Deaths
Counted at 1898 by Locals, UN Refuse to Estimate As It Did in
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, February 18 -- As
the UN belatedly dispatches its top humanitarian official John Holmes
the conflict in Sri Lanka, it still refuses to call for a cease fire or
estimate the number of civilian casualties to date. "The UN does not
a mandate to go and count bodies," its Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe
told Inner City Press on Wednesday, when asked about a UN report of
civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2008. In the absence of a UN
civilians killed so far in 2009 in Sri Lanka, we note local sources'
1898. A senior UN official told Inner City Press that because Sri
so carefully monitors anything about its offensive against Tamil
areas, including going "absolutely nuts at the International Red Cross"
for their projections, the UN is reluctant to issue any estimate about
Lanka -- or, apparently, a cease fire call.
Inner City Press asked
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Spokesperson
Michele Montas for the UN's estimate, and whether it was higher or
in the Gaza conflict earlier this year. Ms. Montas said she would look
added to the transcript of the briefing was the line, "The
Spokesperson later clarified that the United Nations does not generally
casualty figures. When the recent United
Nations flash appeal for Gaza was launched, for example, it attributed
casualty figures to the Palestinian Ministry of Health."
At the UN's February 18 noon briefing, Inner City
Press asked Ms.
Montas' Deputy Marie Okabe for the source of the UN's
recent report of 2,118
civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2008. Ms.
Okabe said the UN has to rely on
"local authorities." Inner City Press noted the UN's dispute with the
authorities of Myanmar about how many people died in the wake of
last year. Ms. Okabe replied that local authorities include "hospitals,
NGOs, people on the ground." But why then no estimate at all about Sri
Lanka? Ms. Okabe said she had "nothing to add to what Michele [Montas]
told you yesterday." Video here,
from Minute 11:19.
Condition of medical care
Since there is nothing to add, we can only cite the
and below, which tabulates over 5000 injured, and 1898 killed, since
January 1. It
lists dates and place-names since January 26. If government or UN
figures emerge we will report them.
Update -- the
following was received:
Your question on Afghan
From: [Deputy Spokesperson at] un.org
To: Inner City Press
to my answer please refer
to the methodology outlined below and contained in the report to which
referred to at the briefing, further information is contained in the
which can be found on: http://www.unama-afg.org/
undertaking investigation and
analysis of specific incidents, UNAMA Human Rights endeavours to
and cross-check all information from as wide a range of sources as
including, for example, testimony of victims, victim’s relatives, and
witnesses, health personnel, community elders, religious leaders and
leaders, pro-government military forces, local, provincial, regional
central Government officials, United Nations Department of Safety and
(UNDSS), mass media, published reports and documents, and other
Your question on Sri Lanka
had asked earlier who
was the "political director" that the Secretary-General had mentioned
sending to Sri Lanka. I can confirm that
Tamrat Samuel, Director of the Asia and Pacific Division of the
Political Affairs, traveled earlier this month to Sri Lanka for
with the country team on the ground.
But the UN has yet to give a read-out on Ban's "political director's"
visit to and consultations in Sri Lanka...
12 debate on Sri Lanka
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16, 2009 debate about Gaza
Click here for Inner City Press'
review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate
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City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger
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December 12 debate on UN double standards
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City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics
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Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo
Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on
UN, bailout, MDGs
and this October 17 debate, on
Security Council and Obama and the UN.
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