COLOMBO: The death toll in the final phase of Eelam War IV was not 40,000, as was claimed in the 2011 report of the Panel of Experts appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, but probably above 7,000, Justice Maxwell Paranagama, chairman of the Sri Lankan Commission on Missing Persons and War Crimes, said on Sunday.
Speaking to Express, Paranagama said that while investigations by his panel could not come to any precise figure of deaths, it was “certainly not 40,000” as was stated in the United Nations report.
Even that report was not definitive, it just mentioned that 40,000 may have been killed, he noted.
“The Department of Statistics, which had done a house-to-house survey in the conflict zone, and the reports sent out by the various foreign Embassies suggest a death toll of 7,700 or thereabouts,” Justice Paranagama said.
However, our Commission could not arrive at any precise figure, but we think 40,000 was certainly an overestimation,” Paranagama added.
UNHRC Kept In Dark
Meanwhile, some former diplomats, ministers and human rights activists have written to Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena asking him to find out why the final Paranagama report, submitted to him on August 15, was not tabled at the on-going session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
The Paranagama panel had been advised on international humanitarian law by an international team comprising Sir Desmond de Silva, professor David Crane, Sir Geoffrey Nice, and Major General John Holms.
In July 2015, the Maithripala Sirisena government had even appointed a Special Investigating Team to expedite investigations into some cases reported to the said panel.
The petitioners pointed out that the most recent investigative report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had said the Paranagama report was not given to them. If the report had been submitted, it would have had an impact on the thinking of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Since the Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera has promised to release the Paranagama report, the petitioners asked Sirisena to have it placed before the United Nations Human Rights Council, without delay.