Government Census on War Deaths in 2009: Two Reports

Amal Jayasinghe:8,000 killed in last year of Sri Lanka war: census,”in, 25 Feb. 2012  ALSO SEE

Pic from AFP Pic from Island

Nearly 8,000 people, including 550 children below the age of 10, were killed in Sri Lanka’s war-torn north during a final offensive to crush Tamil rebels, the census department said Saturday. Another 6,350 people went missing after government forces finally crushed the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2009, the department said in an 80-page report. The figures are in stark contrast to estimates by international rights groups, which say up to 40,000 civilians perished in the final months of the civil war and have heavily criticized Sri Lanka’s treatment of civilians.

 Aerial Pic from Times journo with Ban ki moon, late May 2009

The census report said 6,858 people were killed in the first five months of 2009 when fighting peaked just before the military claimed victory in its no-holds-barred offensive. The census did not cover security forces killed in the war zone, but the military had previously said 6,000 personnel were killed in the final stages of the war.

 Pic by Observer reporter Pic from Min-of Defence site

The department had carried out the census between June and August last year, but disclosed the figures only over the weekend. There was no immediate comment from international rights groups to the latest Sri Lankan census report.

The report described the 7,934 deaths in the Northern Province in 2009 as being due to “extraordinary circumstances”, but did not identify those responsible or whether Tiger combatants were included in the statistics.

Much of the deaths occurred at a time when civilians were ordered to move into what was supposed to be a “no fire zone” as the military tightened its grip on the territory controlled by the rebels. About a fifth of those killed in the first five months of 2009 were below the age of 19 years, according to the census department which said 552 children below the age of 10 years and another 952 between 10 and 19 years were killed.

The numbers appear to confirm fears expressed by UNICEF at the time that hundreds of children were caught up in the conflict and had been killed.

UNICEF had also documented the cases of 7,000 children who had been recruited by the Tamil Tigers, some of whom surrendered to security forces when the fighting drew to a close in 2009.

More than 330,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were displaced by the fighting and were initially housed in internment camps which were eventually dismantled under intense international pressure. The census department also said that the number of people killed in the Tamil-dominated northern province was 22,329 between 2005 and 2009 when a Norwegian-brokered truce began to unravel and fighting escalated.

Colombo has long maintained that its military should not be held culpable for any civilian deaths during the fighting, blaming the Tigers for using non-combatants as human shields.

But last week the military appointed a five-member panel of senior army officers to probe allegations of war crimes by its own troops in the final phase of fighting.

The census department said the highest concentration of 2009 deaths was in Kilinochchi district, where the rebels had their de facto capital, and adjoining Mullaitivu, where the final battle was fought. The census department said the defense ministry provided “necessary infrastructure facilities” for the census known as the “Enumeration of Vital Events.”It said field enumeration was also carried out with the help of the defense ministry.

Government forces still maintain a heavy presence in the former war zone although no attacks have been blamed on Tamil Tigers since their defeat in May 2009. Sri Lanka’s rights record is expected to be discussed at a UN Human Rights Council meeting opening in Geneva next week where the US has said it will bring a resolution demanding the island probe alleged war crimes by its troops.

The United Nations has estimated that up to 100,000 people died in the conflict between 1971 and 2009.

Read more: Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::


Charles de Havilland: “Sri Lanka government publishes war death toll statistics,”

Sri Lankan government statistics put the death toll in the north of the country during the final phase of the war at 9,000, the BBC has learned. More than 7,000 of the deaths appear to be directly related to the military battle three years ago. It is the first set of government figures given for casualties, which have been the subject of heated dispute between the government and critics.

A report commissioned by Ban Ki-Moon put the death toll at up to 40,000.

The Sri Lankan government quietly released a report by its Department of Census and Statistics over the last few days. It contained information gathered by officials interviewing people in war-torn north of the country.

The death statistics were the most sensitive, with the report stating that in the first five months of 2009 – the climax of the war – about 7,400 people died of undefined or “other” causes. This suggests that rather than natural causes, accident, homicide or suicide, the deaths were caused by the fighting. The vast majority died in Mullaitivu district, the scene of the final bloody battles.

The figures also showed that more than 2,600 other people went missing throughout 2009.  It is not yet clear whether the figures include only civilians or also Tamil Tiger fighters, or which side was responsible for the deaths, but the report accords with recent Sri Lankan government admissions that its side did kill some civilians, after first saying it killed none.

The death toll figure is consistent with an early United Nations estimate, but it’s much lower than the estimated 40,000 deaths given by a report commissioned by Ban Ki-Moon last year.


ALSO SEE essays by Michael Roberts:

Reviewing Eelam War IV: A Think-Piece drafted in May 2011 =

The Tamil death toll in early 2009: challenging Rohan Gunaratna =

The Torture Scene in “Killing Fields” and Gordon Weiss =

Tiger Dead & Vestments =

Tent City in the Last Redoubt of the LTTE =

Indian Reporter Pics at NFZ-14-to-18 May 2009 =

Mullivaikkal Hospital in NFZ Last Redoubt =

TIMES Aerial Images, NFZ Last Redoubt, 23 May 2009 =

Final Battle, NFZ Last Redoubt, 13-19 May 2009 =

The Maakkal Padai or Peoples Militia as Arm of the LTTE during Eelam War IV =


Filed under accountability, atrocities, historical interpretation, LTTE, mass conscription, military strategy, politIcal discourse, Rajapaksa regime, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, Tamil migration, Tamil Tiger fighters, terrorism, world events & processes

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