Sri Lanka: UN hides casualty figures to protect regime


The article below is abridged from

Publishing two leaked documents by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the United Nations revealed in an exclusive March 18 report that the UN office had its own estimates of casualties caused by the Sri Lankan Army's military offensive in the Tamil areas in the north-east of the island.

The UN had internal documentation for 9924 civilian casualties, including 2683 killings and 7241 injuries between January 20 and March 7.

"Now it appears that unlike in other conflicts from Darfur to Gaza, the UN withheld the Sri Lanka figures, in effect protecting the Sri Lankan government from criticism", the ICP reported.

The report came as the Sri Lankan government was trying to discredit figures, fearing that the UN-referred casualty figures were based on coverage.

The leaked document said: "Between January and 12 February, the reporting network was spread over a broad area. Since most civilians are now in the small No Fire Zone (NFZ), including the reporting network, the information is better.

"The assumption is that the casualties were greatly under-reported prior to 12 February."

Between January and February, the combat area was reduced from 100 square kilometres to 45km2, including the NFZ of 14km2. As the combat area reduces, the daily average shows a rise in the number of killed (from 33 to 63) and a slight fall in the number of injured (from 184 to 145).

This is due to increased density, the use of heavy weapons that continue to strike the NFZ and inadequate medical treatment.

Two thirds of the documented casualties occurred in the NFZ, said the UN report obtained by the ICP.

Another UN document on the food delivery to the internally displaced persons (IDP) in Vanni said: "After several weeks of reports of food shortages, it's highly predicted that mortality could set in as a significant number of the IDP population is reportedly weakened and the likelihood of malnutrition across the same population group could translate into a rapid increase of nutritional and health deterioration.

"Food stocks are on standby outside Vanni but delivery of required food to IDPs is restricted by GOSL [government of Sri Lanka] access."