Monday, February 25, 2013

The Libya death toll

The Libyan uprising had a high death toll. Initial estimates by rebel commanders went as high as 50,000. Mathaba, the still existing pro-Gaddafi news organization, has even an estimate of 100,000 killed.

Those numbers have been one of the great arguments against a NATO intervention in Syria. Reports from Syria have mentioned that rebels are generally against NATO intervention because it is so bloody (advocates of intervention are mainly exiles who live outside Syria; rebels inside Syria usually ask for more and better arms instead).

Last January the Libyan government suddenly came with a figure of 4700 losses on the rebel side while claiming that for the Gaddafi side "the death toll () may be about the same as among revolutionaries, if not indeed less." The prior estimates assumed that - due to NATO bombs - the number of casualties among Gaddafi supporters would be higher. There would also be a total of 2100 missing.

This death toll of some 10 to 12,000 raises with me questions:
- the reduction to a quarter is quite extreme.
- in the talk page of the Wikipedia page discussing the casualties it is mentioned that the Libyan government was not very cooperative with journalists who wanted to do their own investigations.
- there is not - as we got used to in the Balkans - a list of names with places and causes of death on the internet so that people can check for themselves.
- the article doesn´t mention civilian casualties.
- both sides have killed prisoners. It is unclear whether these casualties are included.

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