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Covid-19 lawsuit against China: Is it fair?

At ALAN ALDANA & ABOGADOS, we believe that in the face of this worldwide tragedy, strong legal measures must be taken in order to contribute and avoid the recurrence of new zoonotic diseases in the future.

The international community must not overlook the core of the problem. Therefore, we urge the States to demand, through the International Court of Justice The aim is to ban the trade of wild animals in public food markets, and to the Government of the People's Republic of China and any other State that allows wildlife markets - such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, among other member countries of the United Nations - at The Hague.

What happened before Covid-19

It is important to review the background, so that the statement we make can have the support of everyone. At the end of 2019, the authorities of the Government of the People's Republic of China confirmed the appearance of the virus, noting that the possible origin - according to the location of 27 of the first 40 infected people - had coincided in the market of the city of Wuhan.

It should also be recalled that in 2002 and 2003, there were 916 deathsin 29 countries on five continents as a result of a coronavirus etiologic agent (SARS-CoV) of very probable zoonotic origin, as well as Covid-19. Which, according to scientific researchers, also originated in a market in southern China - CANTON.

At that time China's Wildlife Protection Law was amended. The new or updated law, prohibiting the sale of some species such as civet cats, is a measure of low legal impact.

But despite the crisis, we observe that these markets continue to operate with poor sanitation measures.selling a diversity of live and wild animals in centers of high density and agglomeration of people. Violating not only the right to health, but also the rights of wildlife protection.

Demand to China

For this reason, by resorting to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justicebeing the only international tribunal of a universal nature with general jurisdiction that admits claims between States, as a consequence of the violation of international law, will be able to settle the litigation we are proposing. Alleging that a serious and radical violation of the right to health is taking place by allowing these States to observe the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measureswhich wishes to "to improve human and animal health and the phytosanitary situation in the territory of all Memberss."

Before this international court there is also the possibility of requesting an advisory opinion, for which, in this specific case, we urge the World Health Organization in this matter. 

Other legal actions that have been taken recently, we consider them reactive to the situation.The main problem is that they are not assessing the core or origin of the problem. They have a political and economic character, among them we observe the Missouri lawsuit which accuses the Asian country of covering up information, silencing whistleblowers and doing little to stop the spread of the disease, state Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced.   

However, we consider that through the decision or advisory opinion that the International Court of Justice may issue in the futureThe parties are obliged to implement the protocols suggested by the World Health Organization on a binding basis. To improve the response capacity, as claimed by institutions and some representatives of the affected States. Gradually, in the midst of the emergency, voices have been raised to warn about China's irresponsibility in not reporting in time what was happening in its major cities, where the virus causing Covid-19 was gaining ground. 

Also at the end of March, a U.S. law firm in Florida filed a class action lawsuit against the People's Republic of ChinaThe Hubei province, the city of Wuhan and several ministries of the eastern government. Because of not notifying the world what was happening with Covid-19 and not taking the necessary measures in time to contain the pandemic, restricting air traffic from that country to others.

Due to this situation, the firm Berman Law Group demands that China compensate for the damages generated by the disease. which has infected 2.2 million people. This group of attorneys specializes in class action cases involving post-accident compensation, divorce, criminal charges and commercial disputes, according to its website.

Jeremy Alters and Matthew Moore, who are in charge of drafting and carrying out the legal proceedings, said that this action is based on the following grounds the need to put China on notice for its actions in withholding information about the Covid-19 risk. The U.S. law group claims to assist individuals and companies that have been seriously affected by the situation, but expect the lawsuit to be escalated to higher instances such as the International Criminal Court courts, as they have stated to the media as La Razón.

Can a coronavirus lawsuit against China succeed?

Specialists in the area recognize that the demand is an ambitious process against a world power, which even failed to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Courtwhere the following are typified crimes against humanityWe must also remember that the United States does not recognize or accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

Likewise, U.S. attorney Larry Klayman, founder of the activist group Freedom WatchThe Chinese government is suing the Chinese government for 20 million dollars in reparation for the damages caused by the country's irresponsible behavior in the face of the pandemic. The class action lawsuit was filed in the Federal Court of Texas, and among the arguments made, sources are cited as indicating that the Wuhan Institute of Virology is a center for the creation of illegal biological weapons in China.

So far, the extent of the legal repercussions is not very clear that these lawsuits will have for the Chinese government. However, it is hoped that a precedent will be set so that there will be no repetition.

In ALAN ALDANA & ABOGADOS, we have a department specialized in International Law that considers that it is necessary to go through the States to sue in the International Court of Justice in the Hague, any member State of the United Nations that allows wildlife markets with the objective of prohibiting the trade of wild animals in public food markets, which has been the focus of deadly viruses.