United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet | Photo from UN.org

United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Monday, September 14, raised concerns over the continued drug-related deaths in the Philippines amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking before the 45th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Bachelet stressed the need to revoke policies and rhetoric that lead to human rights violations in the Philippines.

“There is clearly an urgent need to revoke the policies that continue to result in killings and other human rights violations, to bring to justice the perpetrators, and to halt the use of rhetoric inciting violence against people who use or sell drugs,” she said.

Data from the Philippine National Police showed that 7,884 deaths have occurred during police operations from July 1, 2016 to August 31, 2020. However, human rights groups estimated that the total number of drug war fatalities has exceeded 27,000.

Bachelet noted that the Philippine Department of Justice in June committed to reinvestigate the deaths in police operations, but said her office is still seeking details.

“We are seeking details from the government so we can advise and assess the review panel’s scope, process and efficacy,” she said.

Aside from the drug-related deaths in the Philippines, Bachelet also expressed concern for the journalists, activists and critics who are reportedly experiencing harassment and violence in the country.

“I am also concerned by harassment, threats and violence against journalists, activists and critics; the passage of anti-terrorism legislation with many problematic provisions; and the president’s announced intention to reinstate the death penalty,” she said.

She then called for the UNHRC to continue monitoring the country’s situation.

“I encourage the council to remain active on this situation and to support my office’s continued monitoring and reporting — including to this council — as well as our technical cooperation to implement the report’s recommendations, and to continue to pursue accountability,” Bachelet said.

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