Born from the work of an international network of judges and scholars, coordinated by University of Trento in collaboration with and with financial support from the World Health Organization, the "Covid-19 Litigation Database" in less than six months has already collected, catalogued and made available to the public more than 1,500 judgments from around the world.
It’s the first place where litigation information on public health interventions taken in different countries around the world to counter COVID-19 is systematically collected or analyzed.
The project, in which universities and research centers from North and South America, Africa, Asia and Australia are participating, aims to collect, select, organize and publish, in an open-access online platform, case law related to litigation arising from governments' adoption of public health measures to counter the pandemic at a regional, national or sub-national level.
From freedom of movement to vaccination, from insurance disputes to immigration, the areas touched by public health measures are innumerable and touch on the delicate balance between fundamental rights and freedoms. In concurring to protect the most vulnerable and to ensure social solidarity through the balancing of rights, courts today are called upon to consider complex scientific and legal issues, albeit in a short time frame and with limited scientific evidence.
The selection of cases focuses on litigation concerning challenges to acts of states (and their sub-state articulations), including situations where administrations have failed to take public health action. Cases published in the database come from jurisdictions (WHO member states, including national and subnational legal systems) in all regions of the world, and, where applicable, from supranational courts, such as the European Court of Human Rights. The database includes essential references on selected cases, as well as an English-language summary of the principles of law applied by the courts.
The work of the Covid-19 Litigation Database aims to enable policymakers, lawyers (including but not limited to government lawyers), judges, and other legal practitioners to learn from the experiences that have emerged in different jurisdictions. It can trigger different forms of inter-jurisdictional dialogue to coordinate responses to health crises.
Cases are identified through a purpose-built international network of judges and scholars, supported by public databases and cross-cutting and extensive media searches, as well as through the activation of a crowd sourcing tool, which enables broader community involvement, with a dedicated channel for case reporting by database users. An interactive search is made available so that users can also provide suggestions for the integration of the database, its use and usefulness.
A navigable news section, which takes into account recent rulings and measures, and the ability to access real-time graphs and statistics regarding areas, rights, geographic spread, and groups of individuals involved in the cases reviewed complete the picture.
In an era of unprecedented challenges to the protection of life and security, the "COVID-19 Litigation Project" sheds light on the role of courts in the context of global crises such as the current one. Indeed, courts are increasingly called upon to determine the legitimacy of public health measures to address COVID-19 and to balance health protection with other fundamental rights. In this context, the courts play an important gatekeeping role in ensuring the rationality, reasonableness and proportionality of government interventions.
Essential for charting a course with regard to pandemic management, but also one that may prove to be an essential forum for those facing new and different emergencies in the future.