Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
December 13, 2011

UN's Navi Pillay Makes Up Syrian Casualties Numbers

The United Nations top human rights official Navi Pillay is obviously (see below) exaggerating numbers of people killed in skirmishes in Syria. At the same time she is calling for the U.N. Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court. Such blatant political manipulation of the dead should be below the UN's honor.

December 1: Syria now in a civil war with 4,000 dead: United Nations

Syria has entered a state of civil war with more than 4,000 people dead and an increasing number of soldiers defecting from the army to fight President Bashar Assad's regime, the U.N.'s top human rights official said Thursday.

December 13: Syria crackdown has killed 5,000 people, UN says

The death toll from Syria's crackdown on a 9-month-old uprising has exceeded 5,000 people, the top U.N. rights official said Monday, as Syrians closed their businesses and kept children home from school as part of a general strike to pressure President Bashar Assad to end the bloodshed.

So in the eleven days between Thursday the first December and yesterday 1,000 people, over 90 per day, died in Syria through civil war like violence?

Where does that UN official get her numbers from?

On December 6 the New York Times reported on 36 dead bodys, likely killed in sectarian violence, that were found in Homs. It did not report any any killing elsewhere but added:

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group based in London, called it “one of the deadliest days since the start of the Syrian Revolution.”

That weird "Syrian Observatory for Human Rights", which is clearly on the side of the opposition and certainly doesn't downplay the numbers, calls 36 dead "one of the deadliest days". But the UN comes up with a number that represents more than 90 per day killed on each of the last 11 days.

That can not be right. I have searched through the media reports of the last 12 days and nowhere do I come up with any daily number reported that would be more than those 36 on December 6. The average per day seems to be less than 15.

Navi Pillay and the UN are losing their credibility when they make up such false numbers. The Security Council members should note that and dismiss her and her request.

Posted by b on December 13, 2011 at 18:40 UTC | Permalink


"Such blatant political manipulation of the dead should be below the UN's honor."

Yes it should be, but after 10 years of Iraq sanctions, it's hard for honor to sink any lower.

"Navi Pillay and the UN are losing their credibility when they make up such false numbers."

We can only hope so. That the UN has any credibility left at all is a minor miracle. This Navi Pillay character is clearly auditioning for some US appointed position in the UN.

Posted by: Lysander | Dec 13 2011 19:01 utc | 1

The average number of dead per day in Syria is completely unknown. There are no real trustable sources of information. In my opinion the "Syrian Observatory for Human Rights" and similar organization (though to me it seems it's always the same disinformation 'outlet') just makes the reported daily number up. Quoting that number is giving credibility to disinformation.

Posted by: ThePaper | Dec 13 2011 19:17 utc | 2

I am still waiting to get some validated source for the Libyan dead, don't they register people there? It should not be that difficult to find out.The number quoted by the NTC is 50.000, which would make Libya as bad or worse than Iraq with a 30 million to 6 million population
So I assume the number is false.

Posted by: somebody | Dec 13 2011 19:39 utc | 3

I know that I can lay my hands on it -- I've got a US State Department organization chart around here somewhere that shows the UN Secretariat and Security Council as subordinate to the US Secretary of State. I'll keep looking. Anyhow, it's a fact.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Al-Alam News Network had unconfirmed reports last Spring of Saudi/CIA snipers in Syria taking out protesters. Journalist Webster Tarpley reports from Damascus that he has been to cities like Homs and his conclusion is that there is NO civil war. There are snipers who fire at civilians to create chaos and instability in Syria. Would the Syrian government, or any government, fire mortally on its citizens to seek to cause instability in its country?

Outside influences are contributing to instability in Syria. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denounced the stances of Syrian opposition figures in Turkey and the United States, saying that they make stances that cannot be understood or supported as they reject any suggestion of initiating dialogue. Cui bono?

Posted by: Don Bacon | Dec 13 2011 19:47 utc | 4

I keep thinking back to Iraq in 2006, when some 3000 people were being killed per month. At the time, we kept hearing from officials that Iraq was on the 'edge' of a civil war. They wouldn't say plainly it was a civil war. Instead it was never more than just on the verge. It 'could' become one we were told.

When it comes to Syria, well it's another story. Without a doubt, it's clear a civil war. Or so we're told.

Posted by: Patrick Cummins | Dec 14 2011 4:38 utc | 5

If the UN is capable of counting the dead in Syria, then they should be able to do it in Libya and Iraq and Afghanistan, where they actually have people on the ground. (well, they probably do in Syria, too, but not "officially".)

Posted by: Susan | Dec 14 2011 4:44 utc | 6

UN is responsible for 6900 cholera deaths in Haiti (so far), But WHO's counting?


Posted by: Biklett | Dec 14 2011 7:07 utc | 7

InnerCityPress on the UN security council meeting where Pillay briefed:

Tellingly, after it was all [over], a non-Western member emphasized to Inner City Press that while Pillay at Friday's press conference spoke of 4000 killed, including 1000 with the security forces, in Monday's closed door briefing she raised the number to 5000, NOT including security forces. "It's a bubble," the non Western member said, deploying decidedly black humor. And so it goes at the UN.

Posted by: b | Dec 14 2011 10:43 utc | 8

Yes, who’s counting?

“One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.” - Joseph Stalin

In December 2001, an incident occurred, which “is without doubt the most serious war crime arising out of the U.S. and Northern Alliance campaign to defeat the Taliban and establish a new regime in Afghanistan,” writes Scott Horton in Harper’s.

Large numbers of Taliban forces and their allies had surrendered to the Afghanistan Northern Alliance and U.S. special-forces units and CIA paramilitary operatives.

“As many as 2,000 prisoners…were apparently shot to death or suffocated in sealed metal truck containers while being transferred to Afghanistan’s Sheberghan prison. The dead prisoners from this ‘convoy of death’ were then buried in the northern Afghanistan desert, at Dasht-e-Leili. By the next year, many of the bodies had been exhumed and examined. Some of them bore clear signs of torture…”

“A significant number of American advisers were on hand at the time of the massacre.”

To mark the ten-year anniversary of the “Convoy of Death” and the Dasht-e-Leili massacre, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), has written President Obama to remind him of his promise to act on his promise to investigate the Dasht-e-Leili Massacre.

“PHR urges you to review and make public the results of your investigation into the Dasht-e-Leili massacre and to address accountability by the U.S. and Afghanistan in regard to this atrocity,” the organization writes.

Not going to happen. “Look forward, not back.” Another President Obama promise wilts and fades under political expediency and the culture of unaccountability in Washington.

Posted by: DakotabornKansan | Dec 14 2011 12:10 utc | 9

You know what really angers me? Since when has the UN released monthly death tolls for Iraq when hundreds of thousands were being killed. Then of course the US Military said "it doesn't do death counts". Guess when you don't like the President of a country all of a sudden they do do death tolls.

Also on Syria in particular its difficult to know who is doing the killing. If 4,000 are dead how much of them are soldiers? Assad claims the Syrian military has had 1,000 fatalities. Also how much were unarmed civilians and how much were armed militia groups? There is a huge moral differance between shooting an unarmed civilian and shooting someone who engaged in armed insurrection. Also have the Free Syrian Officers Army based in Turkey killed any civilians yet hard to think they could have killed hundreds of soldiers without harming a single civilian.

This number of 4,000 or 5,000 dead does not in itself show what is going on.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Dec 14 2011 17:53 utc | 10

And why is the UN not counting the deads killed by US drones ? It must be about 20 on a daily basis since Obama became president of arch-rogue state USA.

Posted by: christian | Dec 15 2011 0:38 utc | 11


Posted by: BigAl | Dec 15 2011 0:45 utc | 12

Glen Ford, Black Agenda Reports, on Libya and the deaths of 30,000 Black Libyans:

The Butchering of Gaddafi Is America’s Crime

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

“Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton appeared like ghoulish despots at a Roman Coliseum, reveling in their Libyan gladiators’ butchery.”

Last week the whole world saw, and every decent soul recoiled, at the true face of NATO’s answer to the Arab Spring. An elderly, helpless prisoner struggled to maintain his dignity in a screaming swirl of savages, one of whom thrusts a knife up his rectum. These are Europe and America’s jihadis in the flesh. In a few minutes of joyously recorded bestiality, the rabid pack undid every carefully packaged image of NATO’s “humanitarian” project in North Africa – a horror and revelation indelibly imprinted on the global consciousness by the brutes’ own cell phones.

Nearly eight months of incessant bombing by the air forces of nations that account for 70 percent of the world’s weapons spending, all culminating in the gang-bang slaughter of Moammar Gaddafi, his son Mutassim and his military chief of staff, outside Sirte. The NATO-armed bands then displayed the battered corpses for days in Misurata – the city that had earlier made good on its vow to “purge Black skin” through the massacre and dispersal of 30,000 darker residents of nearby Tawurgha – before disposing of the bodies in an unknown location.

Posted by: BARBBF | Dec 15 2011 4:50 utc | 13

It's also worth keeping an eye on UN Watch, the pro-Israel NGO behind NATO’s war on Libya which is now targeting Syria:

On December 2, the Geneva-based UN Watch welcomed that day’s “strong condemnation” of Syria by a UN Human Rights Council emergency session, and its establishment of a special rapporteur to monitor the situation there following what it called “a global campaign to create the post by a coalition of prominent democracy dissidents and human rights groups” led by UN Watch itself. The non-governmental organization, whose self-appointed mandate is “to monitor the performance of the United Nations by the yardstick of its own Charter,” expressed regret, however, that the UNHRC resolution “paid special deference” to Syria’s “territorial integrity” and “political independence,” decrying the provision as “a clear jab at NATO’s intervention in Libya, and a pre-emptive strike against the principle of the international community’s responsibility to protect civilians under assault.”


In February, UN Watch organized 70 “rights groups” to send a letter to President Obama, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, and UN Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon demanding international action against Libya by invoking the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine. Speaking to the Jerusalem Post at the time, the NGO’s executive director, Hillel Neuer, said that “the muted response of the US and the EU to the Libyan atrocities is not only a let-down to the many Libyans risking their lives for freedom, but a shirking of their obligations, as members of the Security Council and the Human Rights Council, to protect peace and human rights and to prevent war crimes.” Despite the unsubstantiated nature of its allegations,” UN Watch’s “Urgent Appeal to Stop Atrocities in Libya” proved sufficient to get Libya suspended from the Human Rights Council before being referred to the Security Council, and ultimately provided the spurious justification for NATO’s eight-month “humanitarian” bombing of the country.

Posted by: Maidhc Ó Cathail | Dec 15 2011 7:50 utc | 14

AlJazeera picked up the story (without attribution) I laid out in this blogpost:

Counting Syria's dead

The death toll in Syria has risen steadily since the crackdown there began in March, but on Tuesday Navi Pillay, the United Nations commissioner for human rights, told the UN Security Council that in the last four months the number has doubled to more than 5,000.

That figure is 1,000 higher than the one she announced 10 days ago and includes civilians, army defectors and those executed for refusing to shoot civilians, but not soldiers and other security personnel killed by opposition forces.

But it then uses that leade to then make anti-Syrian propaganda by having mouthpieces from Doha and London claim even more dead.

(I know AlJazeerah is reading this blog because they recently invited me to talk on the Russian election and the polls before it which I had posted about. I declined.)

Posted by: b | Dec 15 2011 9:21 utc | 15

@b - what did you mean:

before it which I had posted about
you wanted to say "before I posted about it" or "which I had posted about before"?

Posted by: claudio | Dec 16 2011 0:23 utc | 16

oh now I get it; sorry all ...

Posted by: claudio | Dec 16 2011 18:38 utc | 17

“One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.” - These are the words of Adolf Hitler ( NOT Joseph Stalin )

Posted by: tomazow | Dec 19 2011 12:19 utc | 18

A UK Human Rights group is putting the number around 6200, including 400 children. The real question is why you guys don't care at all about it?

Posted by: Yoni Ra | Dec 22 2011 18:15 utc | 19

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