Epidemics and International Law. Update IDI/IIL & Bibliography


COVID-19 urges legal researchers to investigate the international legal consequences of epidemics. Mr Shinya Murase, Rapporteur of the 12th Commission of the Institut de Droit International (IDI) decided on 27 March 2020 to set up a commission on the topic “Epidemics and International Law”.

On 30 December 2020, the 12th Commission submitted a Report to the IDI. This Report was not only written by the rapporteur, Mr. Shinya Murase, but the final product of all the Members of the 12th Commission (José E. AlvarezAntony Terence AnghieEyal BenvenistiFrancesco FrancioniClaudio GrossmanVanda Eva LammCampbell McLachlanTheodor MeronVáclav MikulkaGérard NiyungekoFausto PocarAntonio Remiro BrotonsBernardo Sepúlveda-AmorDire TladiHanqin Xue). 

On 4 September 2021 the 12th Commission of the Institut de Droit International / Institute of International Law adopted a resolution on “Epidemics, Pandemics and International Law”. 

In Article 2 the objective of the Resolution is described. With this Resolution the 12th Commission of the IDI focuses on the protection of "persons" from epidemics by "promoting a progressive development of international law and its codification". The 12th Commission adopted this resolution with the following aim in mind: to reduce the risk of epidemics and to further a "timely and effective response to epidemics" with "full respect for the human rights" of persons in international law in mind. The 12th Commission intends to ensure that epidemics will not "create adverse transboundary effects to other States and their communities."

In this report the12th Commission states that epidemics are "a global concern for the international community as a whole". As the IDI justly describes in the Report, unfortunately international health law has "never been recognized as a topic of mainstream international law". With the setup of the 12th Commission about Epidemics and International law the IDI is filling a gap in international law.

Even though the formulation of general principles in several draft articles as set out by the IDI perhaps will not result in a binding convention, the set of draft articles - the guiding principles - will have a "certain normative value", the Report of the IDI discloses.

The efforts of the 12th Commission of the IDI will certainly help the international community to meet the challenges of future epidemics from an international law perspective. 

We are looking forward to more in depth international legal research about this important but underexposed topic of international law by the IDI and the international legal community to ensure the codification and further progressive development of international law. 

On page 47 of the IDI Report  you can find a link to a Bibliography on Epidemics and International Law (compiled by Ms Eveline N. van Trigt from the Peace Palace Library).

Recently the website of the Peace Palace Library has been completely renewed. Unfortunately as a result the original link to the Bibliography as mentioned in the Report no longer functions. The new and properly functioning link to the Bibliography can be found here:

Peace Palace Library Research Guide about Health. See: 'Bibliographies'.

The Bibliography Epidemics and International Law was originally drafted for the researchers of the  Online Centre Programme of 2020-2021 of the Centre for Studies and Research in International Law and International Relations of the Hague Academy of International Law . 

The Bibliography will be periodically updated.