Justice Maxwell Paranagama, Chairman of the Sri Lankan Commission on missing persons and war crimes, has said that the death toll in the final phase of Eelam War IV was not 40,000, as claimed in the 2011 report of the Panel of Experts appointed by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, but probably a little above 7,000, the New Indian Express reported.
Paranagama told Express, that while investigations by his panel could not come to any precise figure of deaths, it was “certainly not 40,000” as stated in the UN panel report. Even that report was not definitive, only saying that 40,000 may have been killed.
“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. Our commission could not arrive at any precise figure, but we think 40,000 was certainly an overestimation,” Paranagama said.
Meanwhile, some former diplomats, ministers and human rights activists have written to 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 UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
The Paranagama panel had been advised on international humanitarian law by a international team comprising Sir Desmond de Silva, Prof.David Crane, Sir Geoffrey Nice, and Maj.Gen.John Holms. In July 2015, the 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 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had said that the Paranagama report was not been given to it. If the report had been submitted, it would have had an impact on the thinking of the UNHRC. Since the Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera has promised to release the Paranagama report, the petitioners asked President Sirisena to have it placed before the UNHRC, without delay.