States have human rights obligations to support TRIPS Waiver, says International Commission of Jurists

November 11, 2021: Ahead of critical meetings in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) this month, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has published a legal opinion detailing the human rights obligations of countries in regards to the proposed TRIPS Waiver on COVID-19 vaccine monopolies.

The legal opinion, endorsed by more than 85 jurists from across the world, concludes that “at the very least, States parties have an obligation to not obstruct TRIPS Waiver negotiations. States parties cannot act in a manner that contravenes or limits the realisation of human rights in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather, they are bound to act in furtherance of their duty to cooperate towards the full realization of all human rights.”

The opinion details how member states of the WTO who are blocking a TRIPS waiver ahead of upcoming WTO meetings are breaching their legal obligations to realize the rights to health, equality, life and science.

The Secretary General of the ICJ, Sam Zarifi, said: “International law requires that States stop impeding the TRIPS waiver and instead ensure global health solidarity in access to COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics.

“States must cooperate to ensure the full realization of all human rights including in terms of their immediate obligations to ensure comprehensive access to COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics.”

“What’s more there is ample precedent with this WTO for the issuing of such a waiver in order to protect public health, in the public interest.”

Composed of 60 eminent judges and lawyers from all regions of the world, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) promotes and protects human rights through the Rule of Law, by using its unique legal expertise to develop and strengthen national and international justice systems.

  • The Media Release can be read here.
  • The Legal Opinion can be read here.
  • The Executive Summary can be read here.