Algeria: Switzerland re-launches legal action against Khaled Nezzar for crimes against humanity

Algeria: Switzerland re-launches legal action against Khaled Nezzar for crimes against humanity

The Attorney General of Switzerland has filed an indictment in the Federal Criminal Court against former Algerian defense minister Khaled Nezzar for crimes against humanity committed during the 1990s civil war.

According to the indictment, Nezzar is accused of violating the laws of armed conflicts in accordance with the Geneva Conventions between 1992 and 1994 in connection with the civil war in Algeria and of committing crimes against humanity.

The retired General knowingly and willingly condoned, coordinated and encouraged the torture and other cruel, inhumane or humiliating acts, physical and psychological assaults, arbitrary detentions and convictions and extra-judicial executions.

Following a period of social unrest in Algeria, a multi-party system was introduced in Algeria in February 1989 under a new Constitution. Subsequently, political party ‘Front Islamique du Salut’ (FIS) was established. In 1990, after the incumbent president stood down as defense minister – an office that had previously been tied to the presidency – the army chief Khaled Nezzar, was appointed defense minister. He thereby took charge of the security forces and, a few months later, the secret services as well.

In December 1990, the Algerian army, led by Nezzar, published a memorandum setting out a plan of action for an armed campaign against the Islamist opposition. After the FIS won a majority in the first ballot of the parliamentary elections, there was further unrest, to which the Algerian government responded by stopping the elections and postponing them for an unlimited period. Subsequently, the opposition formed itself into armed groups. In response to the events and following the dissolution of the parliament and the resignation of president Chadli Benjdid, the ‘Haut Comité d’Etat’ (HCE) was established, with NEZZAR as a member, with the aim of guaranteeing the continuity of the state, ensuring that its institutions functioned, and preserving constitutional order.

On 9 February 1992, the HCE imposed a state of emergency and the policy for eliminating Islamist movements that Nezzar had been instrumental in planning in 1990 was implemented.

According to various public sources, during the civil war between 1992 and 1999, known as the ‘décennie noire’ (the Black Decade), up to 200,000 people were killed and around 1.5 million people were driven from their homes. A further 20,000 persons are believed to have disappeared.

In 2011, following a criminal complaint from the non-governmental organisation TRIAL International, the Office of the General Attorney (OAG) opened criminal proceedings against Khaled Nezzar, who at the time was resident in Switzerland, for war crimes in accordance with Articles 108 and 109 of the Military Criminal Code of 13 June 1927 (the former MCC) committed during the civil war in Algeria.

In the indictment, the OAG identifies Khaled Nezzar as a person of influence in Algeria in his capacity and function as the defense minister and as an HCE member appointed trusted associates to key positions and knowingly and willingly created structures in order to eliminate the Islamist opposition according to his plan of action. This led to war crimes and widespread and systematic attacks on civilians suspected of sympathizing with the opposition.

The OAG has documented several incidents that took place between 1992 and 1994, citing victims who suffered torture, water/electric shocks and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatments. In addition, arbitrary detentions and convictions as well as extra-judicial executions took place with the ex-defense minister knowingly and willingly condoned, coordinated or ordered these crimes against humanity.

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