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Libya's government announces significant revision of its own casualty figures

First published 9th Jan 2013

The Libyan Government announced significantly lower figures of people killed during the revolution.
At the peak of the Libyan conflict, the National Transitional Council, on the revolutionaries side, has estimated that tens of thousands of people had been killed by Qaddafi’s forces.

The Deputy Minister for Martyrs and Missing Persons told the Libyan Herald Tribune paper on Monday 7 January that the Ministry's own research on casualty figures had revealed much lower figures and that "the death toll for the old regime may be about the same as among revolutionaries, if not indeed less".

Arguments over casualty figures in Libya have been a cause for political disagreements since 2011. The international community, led by the U.S., authorised NATO armed forces in Libya. This was based on the humanitarian concern that without intervention, the conflict would cause the death of, according to some U.S. officials, "100 000 people". Meanwhile, opponents of NATO intervention believe that armed intervention in support of the uprising caused many more deaths than would have been the case without it.
The Ministry now believes that during the revolution, 4,700 people died and 2,100 went missing on the revolutionaries side, although it cannot confirm exact figures.

Although these figures are yet to be confirmed, there appears to be a willingness by the Libyan Government to publicly acknowledge the casualties of this recent conflict. The fact that the government is also willing to revise their own published figures may be a sign that they are making significant efforts in recording deaths.

The Libyan government has signed an agreement of cooperation with the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), who will assist with the creation of a Libyan Identification Center (LIC). (ICMP is a member of the International Practitioner Network.) This is a step in the development of a process by Libya to work on the issue of missing persons from the recent conflict and from the 42-year Qaddafi regime.

Despite these developments, the assessment of Libya's recording efforts can only be made if and when they release disaggregated information on casualties and make their recording methodology public. 

The Every Casualty campaign calls on states and others to ensure that every casualty of conflict is recognised in this transparent way, following robust investigations.