On May 16, GSL Director Steven Hoffman was featured in a South China Morning Post (SCMP) article about the international communities’ ability to compel the World Health Organization (WHO) to take China to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for its handling of COVID-19.
In the article, Hoffman explained that the move would be unprecedented and therefore rather unlikely. Even if the WHO decided to bring a case against China in front of the ICJ, the outcome is unclear. The court might decide not to hear the case because of the number of cases they have to hear before getting to it. Further, the court might find against China, but there is no way for the court to enforce its judgement.
Hoffman, therefore proposed, that the other route the international community might take, is to take recourse under the International Health Regulations (IHR). The IHR suggests resolving matters related to its interpretation or application through negotiation, mediation and conciliation. All disputes may be settled by referral to the director-general of the WHO or by arbitration if agreed to by all the parties to the dispute. The caveat, according to Hoffman however: no countries have agreed to resolve a matter through this mechanism in the IHR’s 15-year history.