Algeria: ex-defense minister faces war crimes charges

Switzerland's Office of the Attorney General (OAG) announced Aug. 29 that it has formally charged former Algerian defense minister Khaled Nezzar in relation to war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during Algeria's civil war. In the indictment submitted to Switzerland's Federal Criminal Court, prosecutors said "Nezzar is accused of violating the laws of armed conflicts in accordance with the Geneva Conventions between 1992 and 1994 in connection with the civil war in Algeria and of committing crimes against humanity." The OAG alleges that Nezzar "condoned, coordinated or ordered" acts of torture committed by his subordinates.

In 2011, Switzerland began criminal proceedings against Khaled Nezzar, on the basis of a criminal complaint from TRIAL International, invoking the doctrine of "universal jurisdiction" for grave war crimes. The OAG dropped the charges in 2017 after reasoning that the Algerian civil war was not an "internal armed conflict" as defined by law. However, the Federal Criminal Court determined on appeal that the hostilities constituted an internal armed conflict due to their level of violence, allowing the charges to be reinstated.

Nezzar stands accused of violating Article 3 of the First Geneva Convention of 1949, Article 4 and Article 6 of the Second Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 1977, Articles 108 and 109 of the Swiss Military Criminal Code, and Article 264a of the Swiss Criminal Code, which penalizes crimes against humanity.

TRIAL International reacted to the indictment on the social media, saying they welcomed the news, which comes almost 12 years after they filed their initial criminal complaint.

From Jurist, Aug. 29. Used with permission.