Not immune: exploring liability of authoritarian regimes for the COVID-19 pandemic and its cover-up

COVID-19 Pandemics International criminal justice

China and Iran have both come under criticism for their regimes’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive resulting global harm caused by cover-up and obfuscation when responsible action could have contained the virus.

A number of voices have proposed that these regimes should be held legally (and financially) liable for the spread of COVID-19 around the globe.

There is compelling evidence that both Chinese and Iranian regimes buried evidence of the pandemic in its critical early days, choosing to attempt to maintain power and/or stability at the cost of the health and safety of their own citizens and the global population. They are accused of intentionally underreporting data, concealing the extent of the outbreak from the international community and from their own citizenry, and silencing whistleblowers at the expense of protecting public health.

This paper makes the case that governments (and in some cases, citizens) have a variety of legal avenues that could, and should, be pursued in order to seek accountability from China and Iran for the global spread of COVID-19. This is less about blame, and more about responsibility. It is also about compensation: who should pay for COVID-19?

Editor's note

This report is an academic paper, produced for general guidance only, and is not legal advice.

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