Sonya Sceats

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A previously homeless family in the backyard of their newly reclaimed home in Los Angeles, where officials are trying to find homes to protect the state's huge homeless population from COVID-19. Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

During this extraordinary global public health emergency, governments must strike the right balance between assertive measures to slow the spread of the virus and protect lives on the one hand, and respect for human autonomy, dignity and equality on the other.

International law already recognises the grave impact of pandemics and other catastrophic events on social order and provides criteria to guide states in their emergency action. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights permits curbs on the right to ‘liberty of movement’ so long as restrictions are provided by law, deemed necessary to protect public health, and consistent with other rights in that treaty.…  Seguir leyendo »

Xi Jinping visits the Olympic Museum in Lausanne following his speech at Davos. Photo by Getty Images.

The US has always been selective about which treaties it signs up to and has from time to time stood accused of claiming the status of ‘exceptionalism’ from the application of international law. But any reduced US engagement from leadership of the rules-based international system would open up a vacuum, which China may seek to fill.

Such a change would not happen overnight, but China has been quietly strengthening its international legal capabilities and a more isolationist US under President Trump could be just the opportunity for it to deploy law more effectively as part of its foreign policy agenda.

China may seem an unlikely beneficiary of any US pullback in this field, especially in light of its strong rejection of the recent South China Sea arbitral award and accompanying claims that international law is biased against it.…  Seguir leyendo »

A vendor in Beijing stands behind a map including an insert depicting the 'nine-dash line' in the South China Sea. Photo by Getty Images.

It is tempting to read China's refusal in this case to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the arbitral tribunal in The Hague as the defiance of an arrogant superpower that views itself as above international law. No doubt many in Manila, Washington and elsewhere are purveying this view. But there is more here than meets the eye.

For decades, Beijing has complained that the global order was forged in an era when China was weak and the rules of the game are rigged against it.

But this lament is more difficult to sustain in relation to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which China helped negotiate in the 1970s and early 1980s.…  Seguir leyendo »