UN rights chief: Deaths in PH drug war a matter of 'most serious concern'

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United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 24) — The United Nations rights chief has expressed concern anew about the number of deaths under the Philippines drug war.

In her opening statement at the 41st session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said her office is monitoring the situation in the Philippines "very closely."

"The extraordinarily high number of deaths – and persistent reports of extrajudicial killings – in the context of campaigns against drug use continue. Even the officially confirmed number of 5,425 deaths would be a matter of most serious concern for any country," she said.

Bachelet added authorities should be transparent with the circumstances around the deaths, and investigations related to allegations of rights violations.

"These could dispel any false allegations and help regain trust for the authorities," she said.

Human rights groups' figures on the drug-related killings have gone as high as 20,000 deaths since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016.

The UN rights commissioner added that human rights defenders, journalists, and lawyers, as well as members of the Catholic clergy have constantly received threats fro high-ranking officials.

"This creates a very real risk of violence against them, and undermines rule of law, as well as the right to freedom of expression," he said.

The President has repeatedly slammed human rights groups for their criticisms and proposed investigations into the drug war. He even withdrew the Philippines' membership from the International Criminal Court in March, following a case filed against him for in relation to his violent anti-drug campaign.