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UN rights chief reports Syria death toll at 2,600

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Monday said that at least 2,600 people have been killed in Syria in the crackdown on anti-government protesters in the country. During her address to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website], Pillay said "that, according to reliable sources on the ground, the number of those killed since the onset of the unrest in mid-March 2011 in [Syria], has now reached at least 2,600." This figure represents a marked increase in the number of casualties as calculated by the UN. In August, Pillay told the HRC that the death toll stood at 2,200 [press release]. Bouthaina Shaaban, political and media adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], refuted the number [Reuters report], saying a total of 1,400 had been killed since mid-March. Shaaban said the numbers were split evenly, with 700 opposition protesters and 700 government forces killed as a result of the unrest. She also stated that Syria could produce a list of the names of the victims.

Last month, Pillay called on the UN Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official websites] to investigate the violent suppression of anti-government protests [JURIST report]. Pillay's remarks came after the Fact-finding Mission in Syria published its 22-page report concluding that Syrian government forces cracking down on the opposition may be committing crimes against humanity [JURIST report]. The Fact-finding Mission was established [JURIST report] by the HRC in April but was not permitted to enter the country. Also last month, the Los Angeles Times reported that an unknown Western country is funding an investigation [JURIST report] into Syria's recent human rights abuses. In July, two UN rights officials expressed concern over reports of violence [JURIST report] used by Syrian authorities against the country's own people.

1:30 PM ET ~ The UNHRC has named a three-person panel of international experts to investigate allegations of human rights violations including possible crimes against humanity in Syria.

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