Home Articles posted by Gabriella Citroni

The Human Rights Committee and its Role in Interpreting the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights vis-à-vis States Parties

Published on August 28, 2015        Author: 

The role of the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) in the interpretation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the Covenant) has recently been questioned in a post by Dr. Harrington.

Dr. Harrington recognises that the HRC has an important role in the interpretation of the Covenant, however the last word on interpretation would go to States parties. The HRC should “monitor, question and guide”, but it would be States who decide whether the observations and recommendations issued by the HRC are to be supported and implemented. This would allegedly depend on “the specificity and the context” of the recommendations and “the expertise and stature of the Committee members”. This view of the role of the HRC is not unanimously shared, as is clear from some of the comments on the post that refer to authoritative sources that qualify the HRC as the “pre-eminent interpreter of the Covenant”.

It is here argued that the main question is who can say the best, rather than the last, word on the interpretation of the Covenant. In this regard, the HRC has an interpretative authority that prevails over that of States parties, especially when it comes to examining periodic reports and formulating concluding observations. In fact, the HRC, far more than the individual States parties, has the experience in applying the Covenant that is relevant for its interpretation. Read the rest of this entry…


Swiss Court Finds No Immunity for the Former Algerian Minister of Defence Accused of War Crimes: Another Brick in the Wall of the Fight Against Impunity

Published on August 15, 2012        Author: 

Gabriella Citroni is Senior Researcher in International Law and Lecturer in International Human Rights Law at the University of Milano-Bicocca. Although she is Senior Legal Adviser for TRIAL, a Switzerland based NGO that filed the criminal complaint in the case discussed below, she has not been involved in this case.

On 25 July 2012 the Swiss Federal Criminal Court issued a decision (which is available, in French, here) whereby it denied the existence of immunity ratione materiae for a former Algerian Minister of Defence accused of war crimes. This decision revives the ongoing debate on the sensitive issue of immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction and opens up for new perspectives for the application of the principle of universal jurisdiction. It also deals with other relevant matters related to the struggle against impunity.

On 19 October 2011, TRIAL, a non-governmental organization active in the field of human rights headquartered in Switzerland filed a criminal complaint against Mr. Khaled Nezzar, accusing him of war crimes committed during the Algerian civil war (1992-2000). On 19 and 20 October 2011, two individuals of Algerian origin enjoying the status of refugees in Switzerland (one of whom acquired Swiss nationality), also filed criminal complaints against Mr. Nezzar, alleging that they were subjected to torture in 1993.

Mr. Khaled Nezzar, a former general, was Chief of the Algerian Army in 1988, later promoted to Chief of Staff and subsequently appointed as Minister of Defence. During the same period he also was a member of the “High Council of State” (Haut Comité d’Etat, hereinafter “HCE”), which was a collegial body established on 14 January 1992 to replace the President. The HCE functioned until January 1994 and during this period it was entrusted with “all the powers attributed by the Constitution to the President of the Republic”.

When the criminal complaints were filed, Mr. Nezzar was staying in a hotel in Switzland while in transit through that country. Read the rest of this entry…