UN updates Syria war death toll, says 350,000 ‘certainly an undercount’

More than 350,000 people have been killed in over 10 years of conflict in Syria, but the tally is “certainly an undercount,” the United Nations human rights chief said on Friday.

“We have compiled a list of 350,209 identified individuals killed in the conflict in Syria between March 2011 to March 2021,” Michelle Bachelet told the UN Human Rights Council.

This was the UN rights office’s first update on the Syrian conflict’s death toll since August 2014, when the tally stood at 191,369.

“But it is not – and should not be seen as – a complete number of conflict-related killings in Syria. It indicates a minimum verifiable number, and is certainly an under-count of the actual number of killings,” said Bachelet.

Over one in every 13 was a woman – 26,727 in all – almost one in every 13 was a child – 27,126 children, to be exact, she said.

“Behind each recorded death was a human being, born free and equal, in dignity and rights,” she added.

“We must always make victims’ stories visible, both individually and collectively, because the injustice and horror of each of these deaths should compel us to action.”

Highest toll in Aleppo

The greatest number of documented killings – 51,731 – was in the northwestern Aleppo governorate, the UN official said.

“Other areas with heavy death tolls were rural Damascus, with 47,483 deaths; Homs, with 40,986 deaths; Idlib, with 33,271 deaths; Hama, 31,993 deaths; and Tartus, which lost 31,369 people,” Bachelet said.

“Documenting the identity of and circumstances in which people have died is key to the effective realization of a range of fundamental human rights – to know the truth, to seek accountability, and to pursue effective remedies.”

It can also facilitate survivors’ access to education, health care, and property, she added.

“Documenting deaths is directly complementary to efforts to account for missing people,” she explained.

“In the context of Syria, we have been assisting families of missing people to effectively engage with international human rights mechanisms.”

She reiterated a call for “the creation of an independent mechanism, with a robust international mandate, to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing people; identify human remains; and provide support to relatives.”

The Syrian civil war started in 2011 with peaceful demonstrations against Bashar al-Assad that were suppressed with brutal force by his regime.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, some 6.6 million Syrians have been forced to leave the country over the past decade.

Turkey alone hosts approximately 3.7 million of these people – more than any other country in the world.

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