Image:Khaled Nezzar in 2002. He is now 85 years old and reportedly dying. Keystone / Amel Pain ( Courtesy of Swiss Info)
Switzerland’s Office of the Attorney General has indicted former Algerian Defence Minister Khaled Nezzar before the Federal Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The accused, who was at the head of the army and secret services in the early 1990s during the Algerian civil war, is suspected of having approved, coordinated and encouraged torture and other cruel, inhumane or humiliating acts, violations of physical and mental integrity, arbitrary detentions and sentences, and extrajudicial executions, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) wrote in a press releaseExternal link on Tuesday.
According to the indictment, the OAG alleges that Khaled Nezzar, in his capacity as Defence Minister and member of the High State Committee, placed persons of trust in key positions and knowingly and deliberately created structures aimed at exterminating the Islamist opposition, in accordance with his plan of action. This was followed by war crimes and the widespread and systematic persecution of civilians accused of sympathising with the opposition.
The OAG documented 11 incidents that took place between 1992 and 1994. The alleged victims were subjected to torture, including waterboarding and electric shocks, and other cruel, inhumane or humiliating treatment, as well as violations of their physical and mental integrity.
The prosecution states that Nezzar knowingly and deliberately approved, coordinated or ordered these abuses.
Arrested and released
Khaled Nezzar, now 85, was arrested during a visit to Geneva in 2011. He was questioned by the OAG following a complaint lodged by torture victims and the NGO Trial International. The OAG subsequently decided to open a criminal investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In 2017, the OAG closed the case on grounds that there was no armed conflict in Algeria in the early 1990s. In 2018, the Federal Court made public its decision to overturn the OAG’s closure of the case and ordered it to resume the investigation. According to Trial International, 200,000 people died or disappeared in Algeria between 1992 and 2000.