The BBC has learned that according to Sri Lankan government statistics, about 9,000 people died in the war-torn north of Sri Lanka during the controversial final phase of the war three years ago.
More than 7,000 of the deaths appear to be directly related to the military battle. It is the first set of government figures given for such casualties, which have been the subject of heated dispute between the government and its international critics some of which say the figure was much higher.
Within the past few days the government has quietly released a report by its Department of Census and Statistics, with information gathered by officials interviewing people in northern Sri Lanka.
The death statistics are the most sensitive, and the report says that in the first five months of 2009 – the climax of the war – about 7,400 people died of causes that were described as “other” or which were not defined. This means they were NOT due to natural causes, accident, homicide or suicide but were apparently caused by the fighting.
The vast majority died in Mullaitivu district, scene of the final bloody battles. More than 2,600 others went missing throughout 2009. It’s not clear whether the figures include just civilians or also Tamil Tiger fighters; or which side was responsible for the deaths. But it accords with recent Sri Lankan government admissions that its side did kill some civilians, after first saying it killed none.
The figure is consistent with an early United Nations estimate, but it’s much lower than a figure of up to 40,000 deaths given by a report commissioned by Ban Ki-Moon last year.
SL denounced a UN diplomant
Separately, the Sri Lankan mission to the United Nations has denounced a senior UN official, Louise Frechette, for excluding a top Sri Lankan diplomat from a UN advisory group on peacekeeping. It said she behaved in an “outrageous” and “intolerant” way in keeping out Shavendra Silva, whom Asian countries nominated to the group.
As a military commander he headed a division named by the same UN report in connection with alleged war crimes.