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How China can be held legally accountable for coronavirus pandemic

“Generally, countries like China have sovereign immunity and governments cannot be brought to regular courts or held liable regardless of their conduct,”

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, an Israel-based attorney who has long specialized in suing terrorist regimes and state sponsors who orchestrate human rights abuses on behalf of victims, told Fox News.

“However, an argument could be made that just like support for terrorism, which is legally actionable, a government that engages in such reckless disregard and negligence and covers up an epidemic which has the potential to spread worldwide could be held legally liable ,” Darshan-Leitner said.

“Cover-ups and deliberate acts to conceal a deadly medical crisis are not [among] the protected acts of a sovereign state or of responsible leaders.”

U.S. National Security advisor Robert O’Brien, referring to the doctors who were censored, has claimed that the Beijing concealment in the early phase “cost the world community two months” and aggravated the international fallout. Moreover, the leading Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul, has termed it “one of the worst cover-ups in human history.”

“The International Health Regulations (IHR) are rules that should prevent domestic public health emergencies from becoming international problems. This global health law requires member states to notify the WHO of events that may constitute ‘a public health emergency of international concern,'” concurred Ivana Stradner, international law and national security expert at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). “China’s delay in reporting the outbreak violated international law.”

From her lens, states can sue China before international tribunals for violating its obligation to report the coronavirus outbreak under the IHR.

“Chinese behavior is a threat to global security and constitutes a violation of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which authorizes the U.N. Security Council to take action to ‘maintain or restore international peace and security,'” Stradner continued.

“States, and the U.S. in particular, can react to the coronavirus outbreak by invoking the principle of self-defense.”

And David Matas, a Canada-based international human rights, refugee and immigration lawyer who was appointed as a member of the Canadian delegation to the United Nations Conference on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court, emphasized that China, as a State Party, is additionally subject to the Biological Weapons Convention.

“The Convention states in Article I that each state party to this Convention undertakes never in any circumstances to retain microbial or other biological agents, or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes,” he said.

“In my view, non-reporting is a form of retention in violation of the Convention. The United States is also a state party to the treaty. If the U.S. found China acted in breach of its obligations deriving from the provisions of the Convention by its delay in reporting the coronavirus, the U.S. could lodge a complaint with the Security Council.”

Chinese leaders have embarked on a fervent campaign to place blame elsewhere – even going so far as to insinuate the virus was brought to Wuhan by the U.S. military.

Requests by the United States and other global bodies to investigate the origins of the deadly outbreak in China have thus far been dismissed by Beijing, who have staunchly denied any wrongdoing or mishandling of the outbreak.

Darshan-Leitner further stressed that in her view, it is “a massive breach of duty and customary international law,” and that a case could potentially be made in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) if it is proven that a cover-up was perpetuated by high-level individuals.

“The ICJ was created as a forum for countries which believe they have been grievously injured and have causes of action against other states to be able to seek redress. This would be a classic case of the reckless actions of one government impacting and severely harming nations around the world,” she explained.

“The problem is China would have to agree to have the case heard by the ICJ, and with so much loss of life, so many trillions of dollars in damage and the global economic destruction the coronavirus caused Beijing would never agree to have a case heard there.”

Titus Nichols, a federal attorney, and professor at the University of Georgia School of Law, contended that, under international custom, foreign governments are immune to lawsuits from citizens. However, individual families could potentially bring a lawsuit against the Chinese government under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 (FSIA).

“The act is the primary means for bringing a lawsuit against a foreign sovereign or its agencies and instrumentalities,” he said.

But even if families were successful, and financial compensation was ordered, claiming the money from China would be a steep challenge.

“Suing a government for mishandling something like the coronavirus is not likely to be a winning lawsuit in just about any country in the world,” surmised Dan Harris, the founder of the international law firm, Harris Bricken, affirming that payment collections regardless would be tough.

“The Chinese government does not have much in the way of assets outside China and courts there are not going to let you pursue China government assets in China. Chinese state-owned companies have assets outside China, but most countries count that differently.”

Moreover, the issue of who and who isn’t at fault for the exacerbation of the coronavirus is still up for debate.

“There is evidence that China took steps to prevent knowledge about the virus from being shared,” Nichols added. “However, China cannot be held accountable for the actions of Americans who refuse to take heed of the government and continue to spread the virus.”

Header: Jakob Wagner – New York

Original: FOX NEWS

Please note: Published March 20. Please read the full article on FOX NEWS.