The trial of former Algerian Defence Minister Khaled Nezzar will take place in Bellinzona between 17 June and 19 July 2024, according to information recently received by TRIAL International. Twelve years after the criminal complaint filed by TRIAL International against him, and following tumultuous proceedings, Nezzar will have to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity brought against him by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) of Switzerland.
Former Algerian Minister of Defense Khaled Nezzar will stand trial in Switzerland on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. After almost twelve years of tumultuous proceedings, the announcement that the case will finally go to trial renews hope that victims of the Algerian civil war (1991-2002) will get justice. Mr. Nezzar will be the highest-ranking military official ever tried for such crimes based on the principle of universal jurisdiction.
According to information recently made public, former Algerian Minister of Defense Khaled Nezzar is on his deathbed. An indictment by the Swiss authorities is still pending, 12 years after they opened criminal proceedings for complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity against the former general! When the accused passes away, the case will be closed and the victims’ demands will forever remain unanswered, leaving the wounds of the “black decade” open. This would highlight the serious shortcomings of the Swiss prosecuting authorities in this case.
11 years after his arrest in Geneva, the procedure against Khaled Nezzar is still ongoing in Switzerland. TRIAL International still hopes for an indictment in the near future.
It is a giant step forward in the fight against impunity. The Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has conducted the final hearing of Khaled Nezzar. The OAG holds that numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed while Mr. Nezzar was leading the military junta and serving as Minister of Defense at the beginning of the Algerian civil war. After more than 10 years of investigation and numerous judicial twists, the end of the proceedings paves the way for Mr. Nezzar to be sent to trial before the Federal Criminal Court (FCC) for serious offences constituting complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity, including extrajudicial executions, torture and enforced disappearances.
Did Switzerland miss a historic opportunity to judge a potential war criminal? It has been ten years to the day since TRIAL International filed a criminal complaint against the former Algerian Minister of Defense Khaled Nezzar, on 19 October 2011. It has also been a decade since a criminal investigation for war crimes was opened. This was long enough for the accused to return to Algeria without being bothered and probably long enough to doubt that he will ever have to answer for his involvement in the many acts of torture, extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances that took place during the “Dirty War” that tore Algeria apart between 1992 and 2002.
Just one year ago, the Swiss Federal Criminal Court (FCC) recognized the existence of a civil war in Algeria during the “Black Decade,” between 1992 and 2002. This was a very thorough judgment which brought together, in a single decision, numerous aspects of international law. TRIAL International has translated key passages of the judgment into English in an effort to make it more accessible to international stakeholders.
A UN report made public points the finger at Switzerland. In two criminal cases for war crimes, the Office of the Attorney General is alleged to have succumbed to political pressure. This has resulted in huge delays in proceedings, to the detriment of victims supported by TRIAL International.
In this article, summarising the criticism directed at Switzerland by the United Nations special rapporteur on torture and their counterpart on the independence of judges and lawyers, the delays in the present case of Khaled Nezzar as well as the one of Rifaat Al-Assad are being questioned.
The Swiss Federal Criminal Court (FCC) has overturned a decision of the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to dismiss the case of former Algerian Minister Khaled Nezzar, who is suspected of war crimes. In a landmark 50-page decision, the FCC rules that an armed conflict did exist in Algeria in the early 1990s and that General Nezzar was aware of the countless crimes committed under his command. Consequently, the case is referred back the OAG, who will have to resume the investigation.
Five years after the opening of the case against Khaled Nezzar by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) of Switzerland in 2011 for alleged war crimes, the OAG surprisingly concluded that the alleged acts by the former Minister of Defense could not be considered as war crimes on the grounds that there was no war in Algeria when the facts occurred. TRIAL International, the NGO that filed the criminal complaint against Khaled Nezzar, believes this ruling is incomprehensible and supports the civil parties in their appeal before the Swiss Federal Criminal Court (FCC).
However, it was not forwarded to the Algerian authorities until 7 April 2015.
On 31 July 2012, the Federal Criminal Court (FCC) released a landmark decision in the case of Khaled Nezzar, denounced by TRIAL International for war crimes. The FCC found the former Algerian defence minister cannot claim immunity for acts committed during his tenure. It found that one could not possibly invoke immunity for serious international crimes, thus paving the way for a trial in Switzerland. This decision opens up significant possibilities in the fight against impunity based on the principle of universal jurisdiction.
He argues that his position as Minister of Defense at the time protected him from criminal prosecution in Switzerland.
Following erroneous assertions that were published in the media after the arrest of Khaled Nezzar in Geneva on 22 October 2011, TRIAL International issued a Press Release clarifying several points.
He is questioned by the OAG until 21 October 2011, before being released in exchange for promising to participate in subsequent proceedings.
In accordance with its mandate, TRIAL International files a criminal complaint with the Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG), which opens an investigation.