By - Dr. Sapam Dilipkumar
People across the world is trembling with fear for death in the widespread attack by a deadly micro-organism called CORONA VIRUS which spreads more than 185 countries across the world within a short span of three months claiming the precious lives of thousands of people and infected more than 3 lakh people across the globe. When this article was written it is reported that Italy, China and Iran have lost thousands of lives because of this pandemic disease. It is further reported that the number of positive people has also been increasing in India in the last couple of days with the number of the death toll to 7 (seven). In order to cope with the deadly disease in many states of India including Manipur, the government has declared lockdown as precautionary measures. In such a situation, scientists have been burning the midnight oil for inventing a medicine for combating the disease; however, no one can invent it till now. Considering the magnitude of the spread, the WHO declared the disease as a pandemic.
There is also confusion over the question of how this deadly disease outbreaks in Hubei city of China. However, there are three basic assumptions on the origin of the virus. They are: - (i) it originates from animals and transmitted to human beings;(ii) it is created as a biological weapon in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Hubei in China and escapes from it and spreads like wildfire; and (iii) it is brought by the American military in China and spreads almost all countries of the world. It seems that assumption (i) is general perception of the origin of the virus. What is more interesting is the assumption (ii) and (iii) which require close examination from international humanitarian law perspective. People have seen many claims and counterclaims of both USA and China over the outbreak of coronavirus in the newspapers. It may be a secret war between two powerful and rich nations for domination. Another conspiracy theory may be the involvement of a third party like Russia who has done advanced research in the manufacturing and production of biological weapon for increasing mistrust between China and USA. Such theory may be substantiated by the Russian cyber operation conducted during American Presidential Election, 2016 where the Democrate candidate Hillary Clinton was indiscriminately attacked in cyberspace resulting in unexpected defeat.
After the collapse of the USSR, it is claimed that there is no ideological war in the world. Francis Fukuyama wrote his famous book “The End of History and the Last Man” to prove this thesis. However, in this century, nations witness raising conflict between the richest and strongest country of the world, USA and China-world fastest-growing communist country, in all fronts. Having adequate military power and equipment is one of the basic necessities for all nations, irrespective of its size and population, for preserving and protecting its territorial integrity and political independence. International law, developed under the UN system, recognises the inherent right to self-defence which legitimise even the use of military force by attacked nation.
War begins in the mind of man. History tells us that war is as old as human society and has been employed by the nation-states as an effective method for domination as well as means of settlement of disputes. It is true that victory and defeat in the war depend largely on the strength of the military which is again relied on weapon and tactics of war. For instance, Kangleipak Manipur Kingdom could command its power for centuries by dint of Arambai weapon. On the other hand, Kangleipak Manipur has lost in the Battle of Khongjom because the weapon of the British Army was far more advanced than the forces of Kangleipak Manipur.
Man has used poisons for assassination purposes ever since the dawn of civilization, not only against individual enemies but also occasionally against armies. There were many instances of war in human history where enemies were targeted by weapons other than conventional weapons. Emperor Barbarossa poisoned water wells with human bodies, Tortona, Italy in 1155; British distributed blankets from smallpox patients to native Americans in 1763; Napoleon flooded the plains around Mantua, Italy, to enhance the spread of malaria in 1797 and During the Second World War, the Japanese army poisoned more than 1,000 water wells in Chinese villages to study cholera and typhus outbreaks. The German army was the first to use weapons of mass destruction, both biological and chemical, during the First World War, although their attacks with biological weapons were on a rather small scale and were not particularly successful. Covert operations conducted by using both anthrax and glanders attempting to infect animals directly or to contaminate animal feed in several of their enemy countries. During the Korean War, the Chinese, North Koreans and Soviets accused the USA of deploying biological weapons of various kinds. The conspiracy theory that HIV is a biological weapon is still alive in some people’s minds. Depending on whom one asks, KGB or CIA scientists developed HIV to damage the USA or to destabilize Cuba, respectively.
The foundation of microbiology laid by Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch offered new prospects for those interested in biological weapons because it allowed agents to be chosen and designed on a rational basis. These dangers were soon recognized, and resulted in two International Declarations—in 1874 in Brussels and in 1899 in The Hague—that prohibited the use of poisoned weapons. Realising the threat posed on humanity by the manufacturing, production and stockpiling of biological weapon in the world, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (BWC), 1972 which came into force in 1975. It further improved the Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare,1925.The Convention is the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning the development, production and stockpiling of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction.
The Convention contains XV articles. Article I of convention prohibits states party to the convention to develop produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire or retain:
(i) microbial or other biological agents, or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes;
(ii) weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict.
The Article expressly refrains the state parties from using such weapon of mass destruction not only in armed conflict but also for hostile purposes. The Convention, in Article III, further stipulates that state parties undertake not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever, directly or indirectly, and not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any State, group of States or international organisations to manufacture or otherwise acquire any of the agents, toxins, weapons, equipment or means of delivery specified in Article I of the Convention. Article VI of the Convention recognises the right of a state party to lodge complaint against any other state party who is acting in breach of obligations provided in the provisions of the Convention, with the Security Council of the United Nations. Such a complaint should include all possible evidence confirming its validity, as well as a request for its consideration by the Security Council. Cuba officially filed a complaint under BWC, accusing the USA of releasing a plant pathogen. Although this was never proven, the USA did indeed look into biological agents to kill Fidel Castro and Frederick Lumumba of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In the Second and Third Review Conference on the BWC held in 1986 and 1991 respectively, the state parties agreed to undertook to provide annual reports on specific activities related to the BWC including data on research centers and laboratories; information on vaccine production facilities; information on national biological defence research and development programmes; declaration of past activities in offensive and/or defensive biological research and development programmes; information on outbreaks of infectious diseases and similar occurrences caused by toxins; publication of results and promotion of the use of knowledge and contacts; information on legislation, regulations and other measures.
War has never been unregulated activity of states or nonstate entities engaged in hostility to weaken and defeat the enemy. That war is regulated by the customary rules, from time immemorial, finds its testimonies in China, India and Greek civilizations. Even in small civilization of Kangleipak Manipur has developed such custom and practices which is recorded in Chainarol Puya. In due course of time, international community has started codification of law relating to war by incorporating customary rules and practices developed through ages along with new rules concerning with protection of person who are not, and no longer taking part in hostility and laying down means and method of warfare. The Hague Regulations 1899 and 1908, Geneva Conventions, 1949 and the Additional Protocols to Geneva Conventions, 1977 constitutes the core international conventions and agreements which lays down rule of international humanitarian law(IHL). The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in its Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapon, 1966 observed that the cardinal principle contained in the text of IHL are that :
- It aimed at the protection of the civilian population and civilian objects and establishes the distinction between combatants and non- combatants ; state must never make civilians the object of attack and must consequently never use weapons that are incapable of distinguishing between civilian and military targets;
- It is prohibited to cause unnecessary suffering to combatants; accordingly, it is prohibited to use weapons causing them such harm or uselessly aggravating their suffering.
The ICJ further explained the second principle and stated that in application of it, states do not have unlimited freedom of choice of means in the weapons they use. Biological weapon having widespread and long term effect failed to pass in the acid test of both principles. Corona virus knows no national boundary, no discrimination on the ground of race, sex, religion, place of birth etc., no friend and no enemy. The number of infected and affected people has been increasing exponentially threatening the life of mankind. Breach of obligation under international law and violation of the provisions of IHL constitutes commission of war crime, crime against humanity, crime of aggression and breach of peace.
Although, International law is less effective in implementation, it would be wrong to assume that rule of international law has no binding effect. International criminal jurisprudence emerged after Nuremberg Trial culminated in the establishment of the International Criminal Court under the Rome Statute, 1998, criminalises even individuals who commit war crimes, crime of aggression, breach of peace and crime against humanity. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), 1994 and the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY),1993 established under UN Charter tried and indicted even high profile officials for violating provisions of IHL which constitute war crime and crime against humanity. If Corona virus was produced in the laboratory in China as biological weapon, and subsequently escaped or if USA brought and used it in China as biological weapon, both countries violate the provisions of Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (BWC), 1972 for which UN Security Council may investigate and initiate proceedings against the delinquent state provided a complaint is lodged against such states. Moreover, being permanent members of the UN Security Council and as guardian of international law including IHL, both states must fulfil international treaty obligations. Breach of obligation may result in holocaust of war which may lead to the path of extinction of mankind from the earth.