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With Europe and the US suffering huge societal and economic costs, questions have been asked how the virus broke out and spread. While US President Donald Trump has insisted there could be dire consequences for Beijing post the pandemic, the American state of Missouri became one of the first to file a lawsuit against the country. Last month, think tank, the Henry Jackson Society issued a report insisting the UK could also have a potential £351billion claim against China.
Considering the accusations put to the Chinese government, Dr Abbas Poorhashemi, President and Scientific Director of the Canadian Institute for International Law Expertise has outlined four potential scenarios whereby lawsuits could be filed.
Writing in the legal news and research publication, the Juris, Mr Poorhashemi stated: “According to the fundamental principles of international law, violation of state international obligations or commission of any internationally wrongful act by a State engages its international responsibility.
“Thus, the claimant states should prove that China has violated its international obligations.
“In this case, only an internationally wrongful act, such as the breach of an international treaty or the violation of another state’s territory, will be taken into consideration.”
Although China has no legal duties or obligation,s there are four scenarios which could analyse the state’s international responsibility.
Firstly, Mr Poorhashemi stated a lawsuit could be brought into national courts, however, these courts “are not competent to entertain an international dispute between states” while the doctrine of state immunity offers protection for foreign governments in American courts.
Secondly, a lawsuit could be brought to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which is the main judicial body of the United Nations.
However, neither the US or China recognise the jurisdiction of this and therefore the ICJ has no “competence to render a judicial decision for this possible lawsuit”.
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Thirdly, the International Criminal Court (ICC) could also be an option and usually prosecutes individuals for crimes such as genocide or crimes against humanity.
Again, China did not ratify the creation of the ICC thus the court does not have the ability to bring a claim against the state.
Lastly, the UN Security Council does have the power to send cases to the ICC or adapt a resolution against a state.
This is based on the principle of its intent to maintain international peace and security.
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Like the other members of the Security Council – Russia, the UK, US, France – China has the ability to veto the move.
Although these four scenarios would not result in a conclusive case, Mr Poorhashemi did insist international law is based on cooperation.
Under this, every state must cooperate in a situation collectively.
He concluded: “Judicial action against China is not an immediate response for the pandemic crises that are affecting all of humanity in the world.
“The principle of cooperation has been considered as one of the cornerstones of international law.
“According to this principle, all states have an obligation to cooperate in such a situation collectively.
“In this context, the World Health Organization (WHO) plays an essential role in the matter.”
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