Algerian general to be tried in Switzerland for crimes committed during civil war

Algerian general to be tried in Switzerland for crimes committed during civil war
Switzerland's public prosecution office is sending former Algerian Defence Minister Khaled Nezzar to trial for crimes committed during Algeria's brutal civil war, which claimed tens of thousands of lives in the 1990s.
3 min read
10 February, 2022
Khaled Nezzar faces charges of "extrajudicial executions", "torture" and "enforced disappearances" [Getty]

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) in Switzerland is proceeding with charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity against General Khaled Nezzar, who was formerly Chief of Staff of the Algerian army and Algeria's Defence Minister, in what has been described as a "historic" case.

Nezzar is accused of committing crimes during Algeria's brutal civil war, which began in 1992 when the military staged a coup and annulled elections which the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) were on the verge of winning.

The war lasted until 2000 and claimed an estimated 200,000 lives. The Algerian army has been accused of being behind horrific massacres which were blamed on Islamic extremists.

Nezzar was arrested in Geneva in 2011 after Trial International, an NGO which works for the prosecution of war crimes, filed a criminal complaint against him.

He will now be tried by the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in the town of Bellinzona for crimes he allegedly committed between 14 January 1992 and 31 January 1994.

The crimes he is accused of include "extrajudicial executions", "torture" and "enforced disappearances", according to Trial International.

The OAG decided to proceed with the trial after a three-day hearing in the Swiss capital Bern, which took place between 2 and 4 February. Despite its decision to try Nezzar, the 84-year-old general, who lives in Algeria, was allowed to leave freely with his defence lawyers giving assurances that he would appear for trial.

Trial International praised the decision to put Nezzar on trial, calling it "a giant step forward in the fight against impunity" in a press release issued on Tuesday.

 "We welcome the fact that this long investigation has come to an end, paving the way for justice for the countless victims of the Algerian civil war," Giulia Soldan, the head of Trial International's investigations and litigation programme said.

"No one has ever been investigated in Algeria, let alone tried for these crimes. This is the last opportunity to be able to expose before a tribunal the crimes committed during the Algerian civil war," she added.

Orlane Varesano, one of the victims' lawyers, said, "My clients, who suffered unimaginable torture,have been fighting for 30 years to obtain justice. This news is a long-awaited recognition of their suffering."

However, Trial International said it was concerned that Nezzar had not been detained, saying he could flee the court's authority.