COVID-19 and Beyond: international law


Alberto Alvarez-Jiminez, University of Waikato, Petra Butler, Victoria University of Wellington and Jane Kelsey, University of Auckland

The analyses so far deal with human rights, international trade and investment, the Antarctica Treaty System, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, and the law of the sea.

Kingsley Abbot explores the role of international human rights when New Zealand imposes restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus. In his view, the restrictions must be transparent and subject to review by courts.

Kris Gledhill deals with the same interaction but at the time the lockdown is lifted. He suggests that non-discrimination should be an important guiding principle.

Cassandra Mudgway and Kate Jones focus on the need to protect human rights in the online world during the pandemic. They propose the adoption of a digital human rights charter with special protection for women and children against cyberviolence.

Claire Breen analyses the lawfulness of a potential future program of compulsory vaccination. She discusses the State’s duty to protect under international human rights treaties, the right not to be subjected to medical experimentation without free consent, and the conditions under which public health can prevail over individual rights.

Rutsel Martha and Stephen Bailey deal with restrictions to entry imposed by some States on their own nationals abroad to prevent Covid-19. They assess the requirements the restrictions must meet to avoid a violation of the right to return to one’s country under international and regional human rights treaties.

Jane Kelsey is concerned with the international trade and investment law implications of Covid-19 for New Zealand. She is of the view that Zealand’s international obligations on government procurement under the WTO and Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) limit the government’s ability to support kiwi firms. Her submission to Parliament is related to the Overseas Investment (Urgent Measures) Amendment Bill. The submission deals with several issues, such as the limitations imposed by the national treatment obligation in FTAs and the availability of the invocation of their essential security exceptions by New Zealand.

Caroline Foster challenges the claim that border closures imposed by States at a time the World Health Organization was still not authorizing them were contrary to the WHO International Health Regulations (IHR). She argues that an interpretation of the IHR together with the World Trade Organisation Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures supports the lawfulness of these border measures.

Alan Hemmings highlights the lack of operation of the governance of the Antarctic Treaty System to make decisions to respond to the pandemic. Penelope Ridings shows a totally different outcome at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. The Commission has adopted a novel decision-making process to put in place urgent measures during Covid-19.

Robert Patman explores the geopolitics post Covid-19 considering the nationalistic and populist trends in some countries. He recommends that New Zealand defend and help adjust the rules-based multilateral system to deal with inequality and climate change.

Karen Scott provides an assessment of the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Maritime Border) Order 2020 in light of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2005 World Health Organization International Health Regulations. She assesses two key topics: the ban on foreign vessels to enter NZ ports and its exceptions, and the Isolation and Quarantine Requirements for any person who arrives in the country on board a ship.


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