The world already believed Syria's civil war to be monstrous, with nearly 45,000 slain. But when the United Nations plunged into the disparate databases cataloging the victims, it discovered there had been an awful oversight. The true death toll was more like 60,000 people, the data-mining operation revealed. And even that elevated total is likely to be low.
The brutal truth is that no one really knows how many Syrians have died in dictator Bashar Assad's brutal crackdown: Warzone death estimates are notoriously imprecise. By its own admission, the death toll compiled by the human rights tech group Benetech, on behalf of the UN, is inaccurate. But its assessment has the virtue of specificity, a factor that preempts some of the doubts raised about mortality estimates in other warzones. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, called the study "a work in progress, not a final product."