Coronavirus compensation? A potential lawsuit against China worth $4 trillion

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Apr 06, 2020, 10.00 AM(IST) Written By: Praphul Singh

Motorists sporting masks in China Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

There have been many allegations against China to have covered up the virus spread which led to a pandemic that has infected more than 1.2 million people.

 

A potential lawsuit by G7 nations against China for “patent breaches” of the International Health Regulations in its handling of COVID-19 could be worth $ 4 trillion, according to a newly released report.

The report which is the first comprehensive investigation into the global economic impact of the outbreak concludes that potential damages liable against China could run to $4 trillion from just the G7 nations. The US is said to have a claim worth a potential $1.1 trillion in damages based on announced government spending. The UK meanwhile could claim $430 billion, Canada can claim $58.7 billion, and Australia $36.7 billion from China as damages caused by the spread of Coronavirus. 

The report claims that the Chinese Communist Party’s early handling of the disease and failure to adequately report information to the WHO breached Articles Six and Seven of the International Health Regulations [IHRs], a Treaty to which China is a signatory and legally obliged to uphold. These breaches - it is claimed - allowed the outbreak to rapidly spread outside Wuhan, its place of origin. 

In particular, the report by the Henry Jackson Society holds that the CCP:

  • Failed to disclose data that would have revealed evidence of human-to-human transmission for a period of up to three weeks from being aware of it, in breach of Articles six and seven of the IHRs.
  • Provided the WHO with erroneous information about the number of infections between 2 January 2020 and 11 January 2020, in breach of Articles Six and Seven of the IHRs.
  • Failed to proscribe avoidable vectors of lethal zoonotic (animal-originated) viral infection, instead actively promoting the massive proliferation of dangerous viral host species for human consumption in breach of Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.
  • Allowed 5 million people to leave Wuhan before imposing the lockdown on 23 January 2020 despite knowledge of human-to-human transmission.

There have been many allegations against China to have covered up the virus spread which led to a pandemic that has infected more than 1.2 million people till now and killed more than 66 thousand and counting. A University of Southampton study has previously found that — had strict quarantine measures have been introduced three weeks earlier — the diseases spread would have been reduced by some 95%. 

The report by the Henry Jackson Society, a British foreign policy think-tank, says there is evidence that China directly breached international healthcare treaty responsibilities. 

As a result of the breaches of international law, the report assesses that potential damages liable against China could run to $4 trillion from just the G7 nations.

The report further offers ten different potential legal avenues for action against China across international jurisdictional venues. The legal avenues include making use of the International Court of Justice; Permanent Court of Arbitration; Hong Kong Courts; dispute resolutions through Bilateral Investment Treaties; and actions at the World Trade Organisation.

As states earlier, several potential legal avenues are conceivably open to both states and individuals to seek compensation for damages wrought by wrongful acts in the spread of COVID-19. 

At least 10 of such legal actions are as follows:

1. A dispute brought to the WHO that China has breached its obligations under the IHR.

2. Claims made at the International Court of Justice.

3. Disputes opened at the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

4. Actions brought under Bilateral Investment Treaties by individuals, corporations or States.

5. Actions are taken under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to either arbitration or the International Tribunal.

6. Action taken under WTO rules.

7. Claims brought before the Hong Kong Courts that the actions of state bodies breached rights under the ICESCR.

8. Claims brought in the US Federal Courts against the Chinese State that fit an exemption within the FSIA.

9. Claims brought in the US Federal Courts against commercial entities linked to the Chinese State.

10. Claims brought in the English courts against commercial entities linked to the Chinese State.

In addition, should China be unwilling to submit to international justice and other avenues, both ICJ advisory opinions and PCA Commissions of Inquiry offer opportunities to determine facts and apportion blame.

Co-author of the report, Matthew Henderson said that the Chinese Communist Part learned no lessons from their failure in the SARS epidemic. He also blamed the repeated lies and disinformation campaign by the Chinese Govt to have far more deadly consequences. 

"By computing the cost of damage caused to advanced economies and assembling a series of possible legal processes to which the rules-based order can have recourse, we offer a sense of how the free world might seek recompense for the appalling harm the CCP has done,” he said.