More than 60,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's regime erupted in March 2011, a top UN official said on Wednesday.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said an exhaustive analysis carried out by data specialists showed that 59,648 people had died through the end of November.
"Given there has been no let-up in the conflict since the end of November, we can assume that more than 60,000 people have been killed by the beginning of 2013," Pillay concluded in a statement. "The number of casualties is much higher than we expected, and is truly shocking," she said.
Pillay had said in December 2011 that the UN was unable to provide a precise figure on the number of deaths, and media have been relying on the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based watchdog, which on Monday had put the total number of those killed at more than 46,000.
In reference to the UN figure, Pillay said "although this is the most detailed and wide-ranging analysis of casualty figures so far, this is by no means a definitive figure.
"We have not been able to verify the circumstances of each and every death, partly because of the nature of the conflict and partly because we have not been allowed inside Syria since the unrest began in March 2011."
She said that "once there is peace in Syria, further investigations will be necessary to discover precisely how many people have died, and in what circumstances, and who was responsible for all the crimes that have been committed."
The analysis -- which the UN High Commissioner stressed is "a work in progress, not a final product" -- shows a steady increase in the average number of documented deaths per month since the beginning of the conflict, from around 1,000 per month in the summer of 2011 to an average of more than 5,000 per month since July 2012.