The United Nations Human Rights Commissioner has released a new estimate for the overall death toll in the Syrian Civil War, topping out at just over 60,000, a number whose enormity surprised even them.
Instead of questioning the validity of the number, which dwarfs even Syrian rebel claims of 45,000 or more killed, Commissioner Navi Pillay appeared to take the number as unquestionable fact, condemning both sides for the shocking toll.
With no independent reporters on the ground in most of Syria, the reliability of the death tolls coming out of the nation are suspect taken individually however and, consequently, even more suspect when aggregated. Most reports come either out of regime or rebel sources with an interest in inflating the other side’s kill count to portray them in the worst light possible.
Where the true toll lies is anyone’s guess, but the hazard of guessing based on such reports came crystal clear in Libya last year, where rebels had also trumpeted a “genocide” of 50,000 people by the regime alone, and the body count never came anywhere near that figure. Syria’s own toll is likely to be even more difficult to come to terms with, as the war is lasting much longer and considerable territory remains in a disputed state.
The Syrian rebels, as with the Libyan ones, often point to the death tolls as proof of the need for NATO intervention to install them. Yet it is apparent that adding even more combatants to the ground isn’t going to solve the problem of a high death toll, and whatever the true count is, it will grow inevitably higher if NATO starts bombing cities like they did in Libya.