Khaled Nezzar was born on 25 December 1937 in Seriana, Algeria. He deserted the French Army in 1958 to join the National Liberation Front and participated in the Algerian War of Independence.
After Algeria gained the independence in 1962, Khaled Nezzar held several positions in the Algerian army. Appointed the Chief of Land Forces in 1986, he was promoted to the Chief of Staff and then the Minister of Defence in 1990. In this capacity, he acquired all decision-making power of the government. From 1992 to 1994, he was one of the members of the High Council of State (HCS), the military junta of five members which replaced the position of a president. Nezzar was considered as one of the most powerful men of the regime in the beginning of the 1990s, whilst the “dirty war” was raging.
In January 1992, together with other members of the army, Nezzar allegedly orchestrated a coup against the then president Chadli Bendjedid. Subsequently, the army decided to cancel the second round of the parliamentary elections in order to prevent a likely victory of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), a Muslim fundamentalist party which had won the first round of the elections.
Between 1992 and 1994, as the Minister of Defence and the member of the HCS, Nezzar allegedly ordered, authorised and incited the army and public officials to commit a number of crimes – acts of torture, murders, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other acts constituting grave violations of international humanitarian law in the context of the “dirty war”. These crimes were mostly, but not exclusively, committed against the FIS supporters. In 1988, Nezzar among others allegedly ordered the army to shoot hundreds of protestors participating in popular riots.
Following an assassination attempt in 1994, Nezzar resigned from his official functions as the Minister of Defence and the member of the HCS. It is estimated that the “dirty war” eventually caused the death of about 200’000 persons, the disappearance of 20’000 and the forced displacement of more than 1,5 million people.