Rep. Jim Banks Calls on United States to Bring Case Against China to International Court of Justice

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Washington, April 8, 2020 | comments

WASHINGTON – Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), member of the House Armed Services Committee, is calling on the U.S. State Department and Attorney General of the United States to bring a case against China for COVID-19 damages to the United Nations International Court of Justice.

Banks will be circulating a letter around Capitol Hill addressed to Secretary Pompeo and Attorney General Barr to show congressional backing for bringing an international case against China.

Rep. Banks says, “If China’s leaders hadn’t become embarrassed by the outbreak and tried to cover up its spread, the world may have had a better chance to prepare for this or even contain it in Wuhan or China. Instead, we have a pandemic. China shoulders most of that blame. Rather than succumb to the propaganda and spin of Chinese officials, the world must hold them accountable for mishandling this outbreak. If the United Nations cannot even do that, it has completely lost its purpose.” 

Rep. Banks was the first member of Congress to call on China to pay reparations for their failure to communicate to the world about the dangers COVID-19. He was also the first to propose China cancel American debt. He has introduced a resolution with 49 co-sponsors that makes clear the case that the Chinese government's inappropriate response to the virus led to our current pandemic.

BACKGROUND:

The International Court of Justice’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States.

The Chinese state made intentional false claims to its own people and the world about the nature of the virus. In late December, when doctors and journalists tried to warn of a new coronavirus 87% similar to SARS and the emergence of “pneumonia of unclear cause,” the Chinese authorities suppressed or jailed them. On December 31, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission falsely stated there was no human-to-human transmission of the disease, describing it as a seasonable flu that was “preventable and controllable.” This prompted the World Health Organization to announce in a now infamous tweet on Jan. 14 that “preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) identified in Wuhan, China.” China rejected repeated offers from the WHO and CDC in late January and early February to study the new disease without explanation.

As one of nearly 200 states legally bound to the 2005 International Health Regulations, China has a duty to rapidly gather information and contribute to the common understanding of public health emergencies with international implications. Article 6 says states must provide expedited, timely, accurate and sufficiently detailed information to the WHO about the public health emergencies identified in the second annex to prevent global pandemics. Among those health emergencies are SARS and cases of human influenza caused by a new subtype. The regulations also specify that states must provide timely and transparent information as requested within 24 hours.

An epidemiological model at the University of Southampton found that had China acted responsibly just three weeks earlier, the number affected by the virus would have been cut by 95 percent.

Those three weeks could be accounted for here: On December 30, Dr. Li Wenliang sounded the alarm in an online chatroom. Four days later, the Chinese Public Security Bureau forced him to sign a letter acknowledging he made “false statements.” Almost one month later, Chinese authorities were still making false assurances to the public that it was safe for large gatherings to assemble and celebrate the Lunar New Year on Jan. 25. Dr. Li Wenliang died on Feb. 7, 2020 from COVID-19. 

If China fails to submit itself to a fair trial in the International Court of Justice, the Charter of the United Nations gives guidance to injured parties: Articles 49-51 explain how states could suspend their obligations to China as means to induce Beijing to fulfill its responsibility for the calamitous damages inflicted on the world. Options include China’s removal from international organizations, reversing China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, suspending air travel to China and broadcasting Western or Taiwanese media into China.

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