In the face of the 2006 amnesty law, TRIAL International has litigated cases before the United Nations to ensure victims of the civil war can obtain justice. In parallel, it has filed a criminal denunciation in Switzerland against a former Algerian Minister, under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

In 1991, Algeria’s legislative elections degenerated into a 10-year civil war that cost the lives of tens of thousands of people. Supporters of the two main political parties clashed in a guerilla war: both the army and armed groups were responsible for enforced disappearances, massacres, arbitrary detentions, torture and extrajudicial executions. In 2006, an amnesty law cast a cloak of obscurity over all these abuses. Obtaining justice became impossible: impunity had been institutionalized in Algeria.

What does TRIAL International do in Algeria?

Since 2007, TRIAL International has been defending victims before the United Nations Committee against Torture and the United Nations Human Rights Committee. With the support of local NGOs, the organization referred 20 cases of enforced disappearances committed by the Algerian security forces to the United Nations. These files related not only to political activists, but also to innocent individuals (including under-age youths) who had been abducted and disappeared without trace in order to put pressure on their family members.

The UN called upon the government to prosecute the perpetrators of enforced disappearance and to offer compensation to the relatives of disappeared persons. ©Evan-Schneider

Algeria was found liable in every single case. The United Nations called upon the government to shed light on these disappearances, to prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes and to offer compensation to the relatives of those disappeared persons.

Individual responsibility

TRIAL International is also directly fighting the impunity of individuals responsible for the most serious crimes in Algeria. Because there is no effective accountability for the highest leaders, it helps victims to obtain justice before other authorities than their own: using the principle of universal jurisdiction, the organization has thus filed criminal complaints against several suspects of war crimes or torture who were in Switzerland. The most prominent case regards former Minister of Defense Khaled Nezzar, arrested in 2011 on torture suspicions. n August 2023, after almost twelve years of tumultuous proceedings, Swiss authorities announced that the former minister would be tried in Switzerland for war crimes and crimes against humanity.