At least 60,000 people have been killed in Syria since protests against President Bashar al-Assad began nearly two years ago, the United Nations said in its first detailed analysis of deaths.
“The number of casualties is much higher than we expected, and is truly shocking,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a statement e-mailed from Geneva today. “Collectively, we have fiddled at the edges while Syria burns.”
The casualty toll released by the UN integrates six databases of killings between March 2011 and November 2012 maintained by Syrian human rights monitors and one built by the government. Only reports bearing full names and the date and location of each death were used, according to the UN. The seven databases identified 59,648 unique killings and Pillay said it’s now reasonable to assume more than 60,000 have died.
The conflict began with peaceful protests 22 months ago and then spiralled toward what UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi this week warned may “turn into hell.” The fighting has affected the lives of 3.3 million Syrians and caused damage totaling 2 trillion Syrian pounds ($28 billion), Prime Minister Wael al-Halaqi said on state television on Dec. 31.
The analysis shows a rise in the average number of documented deaths to 5,000 a month since July 2012, from around 1,000 a month previously.
The greatest number of reported killings was in Homs where 12,560 deaths were recorded, followed by 10,862 in rural Damascus, 7,686 in Idlib and 6,188 in Aleppo, according to the report. The analysis, by the non-profit technology company Benetech for the UN, was not able to differentiate clearly between combatants and non-combatants.
The report will be used to assist future war crimes investigations, the UN said, and will assist “to enhance accountability and provide justice and reparations to victims’ families.”
At least 20 people died today when warplanes struck a gas station in the Damascus suburb of Mleeha, Omar Hamza, an opposition spokesman told Al Arabiya television. The attack killed 50 and wounded dozens more, according to the opposition Local Coordination Committees in an e-mailed statement. The number of dead is likely to rise as rescuers continue to pull human remains from the rubble, the LCC said.
“The situation is bad and it’s getting worse,” Brahimi said in Cairo on Dec. 30. “I can’t see anything other than these two paths: Either there will be a political solution that will meet the ambitions and legitimate rights of the Syrian people, or Syria will turn into hell.”