Law & the Courts

Rep. Banks Calls on Barr, Pompeo to Bring International Criminal Case against China over Coronavirus Coverup

Then-State Senator Jim Banks of Indiana speaks at the 2014 CPAC in National Harbor, Md. (Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia )

Representative Jim Banks (R., Ind.) is calling on the State Department and Department of Justice to bring a case against China to the United Nations International Court of Justice for damages stemming from the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, joining the growing number of lawmakers who want to see China held responsible.

“If China’s leaders hadn’t become embarrassed by the outbreak and tried to cover up its spread, the world may have had a better chance to prepare for this or even contain it in Wuhan or China,” Banks said in a statement. “Instead, we have a pandemic. China shoulders most of that blame. Rather than succumb to the propaganda and spin of Chinese officials, the world must hold them accountable for mishandling this outbreak. If the United Nations cannot even do that, it has completely lost its purpose.”

If China refuses a trial in the International Court of Justice, Articles 49-51 of the United Nation’s Charter hold that the U.S. and other states could suspend their international obligations to China in order to force Beijing to accept responsibility, including by reversing China’s membership in the World Trade Organization, and by suspending air travel to China.

Banks is currently circulating a letter addressed to Attorney General William Barr and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to gather congressional support for his effort. He also co-sponsored a resolution last month that condemned the Chinese Communist Party’s handling of the initial outbreak.

The Indiana Republican is not the only member of Congress who has called for an international investigation of China. In March, Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) and Representative Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.) proposed a bicameral resolution that called for an international investigation to determine to what extent China’s coverup helped produce a global pandemic.

Recent reports have documented how China failed to take the threat seriously and silenced early warnings that the outbreak could turn into a major problem.

China has also used propaganda to push a conspiracy theory that the virus originated in the U.S., which experts have called “a counteroffensive” and “a kind of blame-shifting.”

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