EJIL: The Podcast! WHO Let the Bats Out?

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Episode 2 of EJIL: The Podcast! is now available. In this episode, Sarah Nouwen, Marko Milanovic, Philippa Webb and I, are joined by Gian Luca Burci, former Legal Counsel of the World Health Organization (WHO), to discuss what international health law provides in relation to preparation for and responses to pandemics. We consider the role of the WHO and its response to the COVID-19 crisis. We also discuss the status of the International Health Regulations adopted by the WHO as well as the obligations it imposes in situation such as the COVID-19 pandemic. What obligations, if any, did China have under these Regulations and did it act in breach of those obligations? We then turn to the various calls or attempts to hold states and organizations (China, the US, the WHO) accountable in international and  domestic courts.

The final segment, which looks at international law issues being crowded out by the coronavirus, discusses a recent English case that raises a difficult tension between the obligation of states to accord diplomatic immunity and to protect human rights. Matthew Happold wrote a post on this case last month. As we discuss in the podcast, the cases raises the tension between human rights and immunity in a different form from previous domestic and international cases that have raised this issue. Furthermore, though the factual context of this case, being about children’s rights, is very different, it actually raises similar issues to those which might have arisen with regard to the killing Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

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Readers who are interested in our coverage of the legal issues relating to the coronavirus can find all the blog posts specifically related to the issue here. Gian Luca Burci’s post on the International Health Regulations is available here, with other posts that discuss those regulations also available here. See also the article by Alex de Waal, published in the Boston Review, referred to in the podcast, and Arundhati Roy’s piece in the Financial Times, which was referred to both in this episode and with which we closed our first episode.

In April 2019, Marko wrote a series of posts on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi which provides useful insights into some of the issues relating to the tension between human rights and diplomatic immunity.  Readers may also wish to read Miles Jackson’s post on Inviolability and the Protest at the Bahraini Embassy from last year.

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