Algeria: dates for the trial of General Khaled Nezzar finally announced
(Geneva, 28 December 2023) – 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.
The opening of the trial is a crucial moment in the proceedings that began on 20 October 2011 with the arrest of Khaled Nezzar in Geneva, following a criminal complaint filed by TRIAL International. The five victims who joined the case as plaintiffs had to wait until 28 August 2023 for an indictment to be issued by the OAG. The OAG accuses the former Algerian general of having committed war crimes, namely torture, inhuman treatment, arbitrary detentions and convictions, as well as killings as crimes against humanity, while he was the strongman of the High Council of State and served as Minister of Defence. These acts allegedly took place between January 1992 and January 1994, during the first years of the “Black Decade”, the Algerian civil war.
“We welcome the fact that a trial will open soon,” declared Vony Rambolamanana, Senior Legal Advisor at TRIAL International’s International Proceedings and Investigations Program. “Unfortunately, the road to justice for the victims that our organisation supports is still full of obstacles. The age and health conditions of the accused, who returned to Algeria in 2020 after a long exile, could even jeopardise the holding of the trial“, she continued.
The proceedings against Khaled Nezzar in Switzerland have been marked by major judicial twists and turns. In 2012, the Federal Criminal Court (FCC) handed down a landmark decision, ruling that the defendant did not enjoy immunity for acts committed as part of his official functions, thereby making it possible for him to stand trial in Switzerland. In 2018, overturning the OAG’s decision to close the case, the FCC recognised the existence of a non-international armed conflict in Algeria during the Black Decade between 1992 and 2002.
An amnesty law in Algeria guarantees complete impunity for the atrocities committed by all parties to the conflict. The trial of Khaled Nezzar, who will be one of the most high-ranking officials ever tried anywhere on the basis of universal jurisdiction, represents the last hope of holding to account one of the key players in the conflict that opposed the Algerian government and various armed Islamist groups, leaving nearly 200,000 people dead or missing.