'Difficult' to sue China over coronavirus pandemic, says Carpio
MANILA, Philippines – Countries around the world may be demanding China be held legally liable for the coronavirus outbreak but doing so will be very difficult as the country is protected by sovereign immunity, retired Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio said.
The doctrine of sovereign immunity, Carpipo said, a basic principle of international law where a state cannot be sued without its consent. Like in other countries, this has been adopted in the Philippines.
“Nobody can sue China in courts without the consent of China and same way, nobody can sue the Philippines in China without our consent,” Carpio said in a forum organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines on Monday, April 27.
“It’s difficult. I think it’s not possible for anyone to sue China in the Philippines or elsewhere – the China state for the COVID-19 crisis,” he added.
Leaders in the United States, along with lawyers in Nigeria and Egypt, have recently taken to filing suits against China over the coronavirus outbreak. In the Philippines, however, any possibility of this was turned down for now as Malacañang said no state obligations were violated.
A possible opening? Though China as a state cannot be sued, Carpio said it may be possible to hold individuals in China liable for negligence or bad faith – if it can be proven.
“It’s possible if you are suing the person, not the state,” Carpio said.
Still, the obstacles to do so would not stop there as Carpio said jurisdiction would then be needed to be acquired over them as individuals supposedly responsible live in China.
In terms of suing China before the International Criminal Court (ICC) or International Court of Justice (ICJ), Carpio reiterated parties may again face the same problems as China is not a signatory to the Rome Statute creating the ICC nor has it given its consent to sued at the (ICJ).
While this is the case, Carpio its leaders such as President Xi Jinping can still be sued if they commit crimes against humanity.
Carpio recalled the the case of former foreign secretary Albert Del Rosario and former ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales who filed a case against Xi at the ICC for crimes against humanity in the West Philippine Sea.
If one were to apply this example to the pandemic, Carpio said “you will have to show that it was the action of President Xi that caused the spread of COVID-19, That’s difficult to prove.”
“It's a virus that came from bats and unless we prove that it was deliberate on their part, it's difficult to sue China and its leaders,” he said.
The coronavirus, which started in Wuhan, China, has so far infected over 3 million people worldwide, with the death toll topping 209,000 as of Tuesday, April 28. – Rappler.com