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The Failure to Pursue the Mandates of International Organizations in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic

This blogpost is a reaction to the last episode of EJIL: The Podcast!, in which the brilliant discussion on the role of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the pandemic ended up with the perennial question of accountability. As contended by Gian Luca Burci, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown once again that international organizations are ideal scapegoats. Whether it be the delays of the WHO, the ‘missing in action’ Security Council or the lack of solidarity by the European Union, national governments and local politicians find in international organizations an ideal pressure relief valve for the malcontent of their electorates. In general, the absence of clarity on the relevant primary obligations makes the issue of accountability extremely abstract, mainly because the discussion lacks the reference to the legal standards that the organization has to respect. The United States, for instance, accused the WHO of failing “in its basic duty” and sent a letter to its Director-General with serious accusations, but without identifying relevant primary obligations that would have been violated…

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The Myth and Mayhem of ‘Build Back Better’: Human Rights Decision-Making and Human Dignity Imperatives in COVID-19

Human rights were already under siege everywhere around the world before COVID-19.  But there is also a dawning race now against reaching the ‘twilight of human rights law’, due to: 1) authoritarian regimes’ dismissal of the relevance of human rights while using this pandemic to expand and consolidate their power, such as to silence speech,…

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COVID-19, Consent and Coercion: New United Nations Guidance on Less Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement in the context of the coronavirus

Thirty years have elapsed since the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (Basic Principles) were first adopted. Yet, as UN Human Rights Experts express concern about police killings and violence in the context of COVID-19 emergency measures, and law enforcement officials  around the world are reported to…

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Do We Need an International Commission of Inquiry for COVID-19? Part I

As the COVID-19 pandemic dominates daily life, questions abound. How did the virus start and spread? How can the problem be managed and an effective treatment or vaccine be developed and made available? Have states and the World Health Organization (WHO) acted reasonably and appropriately? Much attention has focused on the alleged wrongdoing of China, as well…

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Aesthetic Philosophy and the Art of Law in the International Community

Inspired by Sir Hersch Lauterpacht’s writings, Mary Ellen  O’Connell, in the Art of Law in the International Community, provides a contemporary response to the ever increasing erosion by states –in the majority of  cases based on self-interest - of the most fundamental peremptory norm of the international legal order, the prohibition of the use of…

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