UN did not underestimate Sri Lanka death toll: Ban

UNITED NATIONS, June 1, 2009 (AFP) – UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Monday categorically rejected allegations the world body had deliberately underestimated the death toll in the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. “I categorically reject — repeat categorically — any suggestion that the United Nations has deliberately underestimated any figures,” he told the UN General Assembly.

He was reacting to press reports citing confidential UN reports that more than 20,000 civilians were killed by Sri Lankan army shelling.

“In regard to some reports in the media, I should emphasize that the final total is not yet known,” the UN secretary general said. “Most of these figures do not emanate from the UN and most are not consistent with the information at our disposal.”

Ban however made it clear that “whatever the total, the casualties in the conflict were unacceptably high — as I have also said repeatedly.”

Saturday, the London-based Amnesty International called for an independent probe into the number of civilians killed in the final weeks of Sri Lanka’s civil war and also urged the UN to reveal its own estimates.

The call by the rights group followed a report in the Times of London newspaper on Fri