2ND LEAD (Adds links)
UN's Syria dead count questioned
[TamilNet, Thursday, 03 January 2013, 04:03 GMT]
Pointing to the published figure of number of Syrians dead at 60,000, as released by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) the day after the New Year, Innercity Press (ICP), an organization that covers United Nations, questioned the source of the figure. ICP said the figure was from an outside contractor, Benetech, allegedly paid by the OHCHR, and added that funders of Benetech included the U.S. State Department, and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). ICP questioned if Benetech is also involved in a similar study on Sri Lanka where the UN refused to disclose its own numbers-dead fearing that the exposure will backfire on the UN strategy to allow Sri Lanka to continue with the assault on civilians that led to more than 80,000 dead (Petrie Report).
U.S. State Department appears to be a significant funding source for Benetech directly, and indirectly with its close nexus to NED.
NED, a key funder of Benetech, is known to be funded primarily through an annual allocation from the U.S. Congress, within the budget of USAID, the U.S. agency for development assistance, which is part of the U.S. State Department.
A Security Council member has allegedly asked Inner City Press, how the UN was able to obtain the figures when there is "no presence in the field."
While a popular British daily The Independent quoted the 60,000 Syrian dead as "UN figures," U.S State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland referred to the figures as from "report by UN Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay." lending further credibiliity to a figure "generated" by U.S. State funded Benetech.
Benetech in covering its own report said, "[t]he report integrates information from six databases compiled by Syrian human rights monitors and one database collected by the Syrian government," and added that the UN has released a statement describing the report as "an exhaustive analysis."
ICP's request to Benetech and to OHCHR on whether an RFP was used in the selection of an outside firm to do the study has not been fully answered by either organization, ICP said.
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