COVID 19, Who owes to Compensate the World?

05-05-2020 08:22 AM

AMMONNEWS - By Lawyer Isra Ibrahim - Nowadays, questions have been posed about the possibility of China and WHO liability and filing cases against it whether at national or international levels owing to the outbreak and contagion of coronavirus (“COVID-19”) pandemic, that resulted in around three and half million of infected people and around 239 thousand of dead people around the world , further, smashing insofar, the economy, health and social life of many states.

Ostensibly, the first roots of this pandemic had been in "China – Wuhan City " hence, fingers started to be pointed at china, the claims commenced to indict China as being violating international law. Hereinafter I will illustrate the validity and the possibility of this obit through available info repertoire.

On November 17, 2019, China had its first case of COVID-19 , and only on December 31, 2019, China notified the World Health Organization (“WHO”) about several cases of unusual pneumonia in Wuhan . Herein, exploring the first legal foundation for China's responsibility because of the delay for more than a month to notify WHO, noting that article (6) of International Health Regulations (2005) clearly provided that the notification time shall be within (24) hours.

The WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also postponed declaring it as a public health emergency until January 30, 2020 , irrespective of the speed and transboundary of contagion, besides the large number of deaths and infected people. Hence, the month was sufficient for the outbreak of the virus throughout the world contextually. I would like here to reaffirm on the statement made by Taro ASO, "The Deputy Prime Minister of Japan”, that the role of the WHO head that was lax . Moreover, the resignation of WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus became a demand because this battle must have confronted by spending extraordinary fast effort, taking deliberate steps this emergency needed.

Feeble awareness and lack of health and food supervision and the neglect from the Chinese side and laxity in declaration from WHO as well, caused the world, starting from China, thousands of dead bodies , and till the date of this article, around three million and half of infected people who suffered from this outbreak, in addition to the exhaustion of the medical sector, the economic suffering for both private and public sectors which could be quantified in Trillions of USD, and the depletion of the social sector of the infected states for the reason that this virus requires exceptional effort and funds that states and people cannot afford at this stage.

Both China and WHO did not pursue the international obligation nor International Health Regulations "IHR" which unequivocally condemns them. From my perspective, I predict that this should qualify as gross negligence which should not be a cost-free especially that as per international law, the negligent parties owe the harmed states a compensation.

Some critics may imprimatur that the IHR did not include a sanction or consequences in case of breach, but from my part, I would say that responsibility exists under various international legal rules and customary international law including the "Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts 200" issued by the United Nations, notably that one of the United Nations Security Council permanent membership is China; moreover, the Council rules which includes maintaining international peace and security, the permanent membership may, hopefully not, affect the mentioned rules but what if China step aside! It will constitute a more comfortable image of integrity which is necessary nowadays to maintain international peace and security.

Further, the Statute of the International Court of Justice would be a resort; for instance; article (36/2/c and d) of the Statute of the International Court of Justice "ICJ” explicitly states:
"2. The states parties to the present Statute may at any time declare that they recognize as compulsory ipso facto and without special agreement, concerning any other State accepting the same obligation, the jurisdiction of the Court in all legal disputes concerning: c. the existence of any fact which, if established, would constitute a breach of an international obligation; d. the nature or extent of the reparation to be made for the breach of an international obligation”.

Interpretation will be emanated and for example the interpretation of article (7/k) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court clarifies the jurisdiction of the Court on "(k) Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or mental or physical health." It could also apply for the infected people and victims' families from the COVID-19.

But worthwhile noting that China has not signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, some researchers refer to the Afghanistan inquiry as a precedent of ICC despite that USA did not sign the above statute; hence, it worth to note that the inquiry was in Afghanistan, which is party of the mentioned statute.

The above illustrates the right of reparation; moreover, the Court will be hearing cases for compensation that would further precedents.

But what about filling cases in the national level! Some may call about the possibility of suing China if the national law provided that, but from my part, I believe that it confronts with the immunity of the states that cannot be sued from national court in particular when we tackle the absolute immunity doctrine that leads to the last resort which is the international courts.

Preferably, some international terminology shall be changed, such as; the health and environment, because they do not only affect the territory of the states in question, but they are transboundary. Hopefully, this pandemic taught us a lesson about the re-concerning of some matters including cross-borders environment and health. I have referenced a book called "One Health" edited by Ronald M. Atlas and Tanley Maloy which included (people, animals, and environment), that mightily the international community needs to be aware about such aspects related health, and environment.

Legally speaking, International Law is quite clear that states are obliged to respect and abide by it. There is no time to sympathy, but demanding to tackle the dilemma by swapping roles and eventually someone will bear the international legal responsibility for the pandemic and should pay for it.

Optimistically, the panacea will be developed, hence the distraction will be faded, the international relation would move towards a new phase and the ramifications could be exorbitant.
However; whomever made us suffer must be held accountable, actions have consequences.

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