Algeria’s ex-defense minister detained in Geneva over war crimes

Swiss Federal Judicial Police on Oct. 19 arrested Algeria’s former defense minister Khaled Nezzar for questioning by prosecutors on “suspicion of war crimes.” Nezzar, 73, was detained while in Geneva for medical treatment. The Swiss group Track Impunity Always (TRIAL) said the investigation was prompted by complaints by two victims stemming from Algeria’s 1990s civil war pitting Islamist extremists against government forces, in which some 100,000 were killed. “The winds of the Arab Spring have reached Switzerland,” said TRIAL’s director Philip Grant. However, TRIAL criticized the Swiss prosecutor for releasing Nezzar “on the basis of a promise to attend” future hearings. TRIAL said he should have been kept in protective custody as he presented a high flight risk. (El Watan, Algeria, Oct. 24; AFP, Reuters, Oct. 22)

Nezzar, in his testimony, denyied the existence of excesses by the army. “The army who has managed to convince more than six thousand (6000) armed men to drop their weapons and leave the armed activities, can not commit massacres,” he said. (Ennahar Online, Algeria, Oct. 23)

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