Sri Lankan Army staggered death of more than 20,000 Tamil civilians. Tamil Speech by S.V.Ramani.
A day after reports that the final scorched earth offensive against the Tamil tigers killed more than 20,000 Tamil civilians, The Times, London, has revealed that the top aide to the United Nations secretary-general knew of the staggering death toll and had been told more than a week before the figure came out in the media.
UN officials told Vijay Nambiar, an Indian diplomat who is Ban Ki Moon’s chief of staff, that their figures indicated a likely civilian death toll of more than 20,000 during a briefing in preparation for Ban’s visit to the region on May 23, the newspaper reported.
The daily said two staff present at the meeting confirmed the exchange to it, but Ban never mentioned the toll during his tour of the battleground, which he described as the “most appalling scene” he had witnessed in his long international career. Nambiar, an IFS officer, has served at the UN earlier as India’s permanent representative.
The figure of 20,000, reported by TOI on Saturday citing The Times, triggered calls for an independent probe into the number of civilians killed in the final weeks of the war. Amnesty International accused both sides of war crimes and demanded that the UN unearth the truth. “The UN should do everything it can to determine the truth about the bloodbath that occurred in northeast Sri Lanka,” said Amnesty’s Asia-Pacific director Sam Zarifi.
The top aide to the United Nations Secretary-General was told more than a week ago that at least 20,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the Sri Lankan Government’s final offensive against the Tamil Tiger rebels this month, The Times had revealed.
UN officials told Vijar Nambiar, Ban Ki Moon’s chief of staff, that their figures indicated a likely final death toll of more than 20,000, during a briefing in preparation for Ban’s visit to the region on May 23. The 20,000 figure has also been obtained by the French daily Le Monde, which quoted UN sources as saying that the figure had not been made public to avoid a diplomatic storm. The figure of 7,000 deaths until the end of April, which was based on individually documented deaths and not estimates, was leaked by UN sources in Sri Lanka this month after internal anger over the secrecy surrounding them, the daily said.
UN satellite images documenting the bombing of medical facilities were also leaked from New York, it said.
A top United Nations official disputed The Times report that cited UN sources but welcomed the idea of a probe. “The figure has no status as far as we’re concerned,” UN under secretary-general John Holmes said. “It may be right, it may be wrong, it may be far too high, it may even be too low. But we honestly don’t know. We’ve always said an investigation is a good idea.”
The UN Humanitarian Coordination Office said the figures cited by The Times were based on well-informed estimates given in private briefings to member states to underscore its concern, including Britain and the United States. “You have seen the figures that are mentioned. Obviously, what we have are well informed estimates and not precise, verifiable numbers,” said Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the humanitarian co-ordination office.