11 years after his arrest in Geneva, the procedure against Khaled Nezzar is still ongoing in Switzerland
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
On 20 October 2011, the Algerian general Khaled Nezzar was arrested in Geneva following a denunciation filed by TRIAL International and two criminal complaints from victims who had been tortured during the so-called black decade. Following a 48-hours questioning by the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG), he was released on the condition that he attends the subsequent hearings. His final hearing in February 2022 allowed the victims as well as TRIAL International, which accompanied them for eleven years, to foresee the possibility of an indictment in a near future. However, his age and his deteriorating health, as rumors suggest, may jeopardize the holding of a trial.
The long-running procedure initiated in 2011 in Switzerland represents the only chance for the Algerian victims’ voice to be heard and for them to obtain justice. Switzerland’s role in this case is therefore highly important. The OAG suspects Khaled Nezzar of having participated, as an accomplice, in multiple war crimes (murder, torture, inhuman treatment, illegal detention) as well as in manslaughters committed in the context of a systematic and widespread attack against the civilian population between January 1992 and January 1994 in Algeria, when he was the leader of the military junta in power and serving as Minister of Defense.
After many judicial twists and turns, the opening of a trial in Switzerland against the former Minister of Defense would mark a historical precedent. Indeed, that would be the first time ever in the world that such a high-level individual would have to answer for war crimes and crimes against humanity before a national court in application of the principle of universal jurisdiction. In Switzerland, while other cases based on the same principle are currently under investigation, the trial of Khaled Nezzar would only be the second to be held before the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona in application of this principle.
The procedure, which in itself lasted longer than the actual Algerian civil war, has been made possible thanks to the courage of the victims and the presence of TRIAL International as well as committed lawyers at their side. However, worrying rumors on the health of the soon-to-be 85-year-old Khaled Nezzar raise the concern that he may never be held accountable before Swiss courts.
According to Benoit Meystre, legal advisor at TRIAL International, “in the event of Khaled Nezzar’s death, the closure of the proceedings would be devastating news for all the victims of the Algerian black decade and would be perceived as a failure of the Swiss prosecution authorities.
If the road to justice can often be long, this is all the more true in this case. The victims of the so-called dirty war have now been waiting for more than 30 years for justice. TRIAL International and the victims continue to believe that an indictment will be issued soon and do not lose hope of seeing Khaled Nezzar sitting in the dock of the Federal Criminal Court.
At the beginning of the “black decade” in Algeria, which allegedly left 200,000 people dead or missing between 1992 and 2000, Khaled Nezzar was leading the army as Minister of Defense and de facto leader of the military junta, hence leading the troops that committed so many atrocities. Grave human rights violations were widespread, and the use of torture was systematic. Total impunity unfortunately prevails up to this date for these crimes.