Document Type : Article


1 Assistant prof. Department of Public and International Law, School of Law and Political Sciences, Shiraz University, Shiraz,. Iran

2 M.A Student in International Law, Department of Public and International Law, International Campus Unit, Shiraz University, Shiraz, Iran


The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the implementation of states' international obligations, especially in terms of international human rights law. The right to health was violated more than any other rights. Although quarantines, social distancing, travel and access-to-information bans were imposed to protect public health, the inefficiency of some states led to the violation of the right to freedom of movement as well as the right to access information. Using a descriptive-analytical method, this paper will examine the implementation of these three rights during the COVID-19 pandemic and will ask which precluding circumstances can be invoked by states to justify violations of their obligations? It seems, given the high threshold for proving force majeure, the pandemic does not meet all the requirements of this factor, such as the impossibility of materially performing obligations. Nonetheless, distress and especially necessity seem worthy of consideration. Given the differences between states in terms of the severity of the pandemic and the capacity to deal with it, these factors cannot be considered as equally applicable to all states.


  1. A) Books
  2. Crawford, James (2013), State Responsibility (The General Part), New York: Cambridge University Press.
  3. Gostin, Lawrence O. & Lazzarini, Zita )1997), Human Rights and Public Health in the AIDS Pandemic, Oxford, Oxford University Press.


  1. B) Articles
  2. Annacker, Claudia, Achtouk‑spivak, Laurie, Klinkmüller, Severin, Garden, Robert, Moore, Christopher, Kreindler, Richard, Zelbo, Howard, Vega‑gonzalez Martha E. (2020), “COVID-19: Public Health Emergency, Measures and State Defenses in International Investment Law”, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, pp.1-7.
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  4. Droubi, Sufyan, Osorio, Leticia Marques, Terena, Luiz Eloy (2020), “The Brazilian Federal Supreme Court comes to the protection of indigenous people’s right to health in the face of Covid-19”, (23 December 2020),
  5. Ferhani, Adam & Rushton, Simon (2020), “The International Health Regulations, COVID-19, and bordering practices: Who gets in, what gets out, and who gets rescued?”, Contemporary Security Policy, Vol.41, No.3, pp. 458-477.
  6. Gathii, James Thuo (2006), “How Necessity May Preclude State Responsibility for Compulsory Licensing under the TRIPS Agreement”, The North Carolina Journal of International Law and Commercial Regulation, Vol.31, No.4, pp. 943-970.
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  8. Ghafarzadeh, Mohammad Amin (2014), “Effects of distress and necessity on the international responsibility of states”, Foreign Policy Quarterly, Vol, 28, Number 2 - Serial Number 2, pp. 317-346 (In Persian).
  9. Hasan, Haniya (2020), “Is an Ineffective State Response to COVID-19 a Violation of Human Rights?”, (16 June 2020).
  10. Hostmaelingen, Njal, Beate Bentzen, Heidi (2020), “How to operationalise human rights for COVID-19 measures”, BMJ Glob Health, Vol.5, No.7, pp. 1-4.
  11. Howie, Emily (2018), “Protecting the human right to freedom of expression in international law”, International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, Vol.20, No.1, pp.12-15.
  12. Javid, Ehsan, Niavarani, Saber (2014), “The Scope of the Right to Health in International Human Right Law”, Public Law Research, Vol. 15, Issue. 41 - Serial Number 41, pp.47-70 (In Persian).
  13. Lebret, Audrey (2020), “COVID-19 pandemic and derogation to human rights”, Journal of Law and the Bio sciences, Vol.7, No.1, pp. 1–15.
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  15. Nay, Olivier (2020), “Can a virus undermine human rights?”, Lancet Public Health Actions, Vol.5, No.5, pp. e238-e239.
  16. Ostrove, Micheal et al (2020), “State defences to investment claims arising from COVID-19”, (29 April 2020).
  17. Paddeu, Federica, Jephcott, Freya (2020), “COVID-19 and Defences in the Law of State Responsibility: Part I”, (17 March 2020).
  18. ---------------------------, “COVID-19 and Defences in the Law of State Responsibility: Part II”, (17 March 2020).
  19. Paddeu, Federica, Parlet, Kate (2020), “COVID-19 and Investment Treaty Claims”, (30 March 2020).
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  1. C) Documents
  2. Constitution of the World Health Organization. 1947.
  3. European Social Charter (ESC), 1961.
  4. World Health Organization (WHO), International Health Regulations, 2005.
  5. International Law Commission (ILC), Draft Articles on Responsibility of States for International Wrongful Acts with Commentaries, UN Doc. A/56/10, 2001.
  6. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), 1966.
  7. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), General Comment No. 14: The Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health (Art. 12), 11 August 2000, Document E/C.12/2000/4.
  8. United Nations (UN) (2020), “COVID-19 and Human Rights: We are all in this together”, Report on Human Rights and Covid-19, (23 April 2020).
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  1. D) Awards
  2. GabCikovo-Nagymaros Project (HungarylSlovakia), Judgment, 1. C. J. Reports 1997, p. 7.
  3. Case of National Grid v. Argentina, International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes(ICSID), No: 1:09-cv-00248-RBW3, November 2008.
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  5. Case of Brincat and others v. Malta, European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), 24 July 2014.


  1. D) Websites
  2. International Bar Association (IBA) (2020), “Covid-19: potential legal actions against China”, (6 August 2020),
  3. Keitner, Chimène (2020), “Don’t Bother Suing China for Coronavirus, (8 April 2020),
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  6. The Economic Times (2020), “US State files lawsuit against China on Covid-19 handling”, News, (23 April 2020),
  7. Vakil, Lawyer, Amir Saed (2020). “Is the outbreak of the coronavirus a justification for not fulfilling states' commitments?”, in: (In Persian).
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