Khaled Nezzar

17.04.2023 ( Last modified: 31.03.2023 )
TRIAL International reminds its visitors that any person charged by national or international authorities is presumed innocent until proven guilty.


Ongoing proceedings against the former Algerian minister of defense for alleged war crimes committed in Algeria between 1992 and 1994

Type of jurisdiction

Universal jurisdiction


Khaled Nezzar, former chief of staff of the Armée nationale populaire (National Popular Army) from 1988 to 1990, minister of defense in Algeria from 1990 to 1993, member of the High Council of State (HCS) from 1992 to 1994

Country of residence of suspect



As the case is at the investigation stage, the suspect has not yet been formally charged. The investigation focuses on crimes against humanity and war crimes, including acts of torture, killings and enforced disappearances.

Current status

Under investigation


From 14 January 1992 to 31 January 1994, as minister of defense and member of the HCS, Nezzar allegedly incited, authorized and ordered military and public agents to commit acts of torture, murders, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other grave violations of international humanitarian law. The “dirty war”, which ended in 2000, caused the death of approximately 200’000 persons and the disappearance of some 20’000 others.


In October 2011, after having been informed of the presence of the suspect on Swiss territory, TRIAL International filed a criminal complaint against Nezzar for war crimes committed during the civil war in Algeria. Two victims of torture joined the procedure in 2011 by filing a criminal complaint before the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). In 2012, 2014 and 2016, three other victims filed their own criminal complaints and became plaintiffs.

Nezzar was arrested in October 2011 and was interviewed by the OAG. Before being allowed to leave the country, his lawyers challenged the jurisdiction of the OAG, in particular on the grounds that Nezzar would benefit from jurisdictional immunity.

In a 25 July 2012 decision, Nezzar’s appeal was rejected by the Federal Criminal Court which considered that functional immunities cannot be invoked for international crimes.

In early January 2017, the OAG dismissed the case, considering that the alleged acts committed 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 acts allegedly occurred. On 16 January 2017, some of the plaintiffs appealed the decision before the Federal Criminal Court.

On 30 May 2018, the Federal Criminal Court overturned the decision of the OAG. The Court recognized the existence of a non-international armed conflict in Algeria in the early 1990s and found that there was no doubt that Nezzar was aware of the acts committed under his order. Therefore, the Court concluded that the OAG should complete its investigation on war crimes and determine whether Nezzar could also be charged with crimes against humanity, torture and murder.

In August 2018, a letter to Switzerland by the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on torture and on the independence of judges and lawyers was made public. It heavily criticized Switzerland for an alleged lack of independence and political interference, mentioning explicitly the case against Nezzar.

In 2019, Nezzar was tried in absentia in Algeria along with other former regime members and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment for acts of conspiracy against the authority of the state. Despite this conviction, Nezzar returned to Algeria in December 2020, where he remains free.

Developments in 2022

On 8 February 2022, the OAG conducted the final hearing of Nezzar. The OAG concluded that numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed while Nezzar was leading the military junta and serving as minister of defense at the beginning of the Algerian civil war.

In May 2022, one of the plaintiffs decided to withdraw his complaint against Nezzar following pressure allegedly exerted on him. In September, an additional victim filed an individual criminal complaint. This new plaintiff was heard the following month. Other hearings, including of witnesses, took place between November and December 2022.

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