World Bulletin / News Desk
Algeria's ex-military chief Khaled Nezzar very likely will be prosecuted on war crimes charges for his role in the bloody civil conflict of the 1990s, a Swiss legal body said on Tuesday.
In a judgment released earlier in the day, Switzerland's top criminal court rejected claims from Nezzar that he could not be tried outside his home country for offences allegedly committed when he was defence minister there from 1990-1993.
"This is an historic judgment which means he can be tried here for what he did," Philip Grant, director of the Geneva-based TRIAL, an organisation that seeks to assure that war crimes suspects are brought to trial, told Reuters.
"It may take some time for it to happen, but the way is now open."
The general, who had become defence minister in 1990, was among leaders of a coup that overthrew then-president Chadli Benjadid in 1991 after the Islamic Salvation Front (ISF) emerged as victor in parliamentary elections.
The vote was declared void and in the ensuing violence, dubbed the "dirty war" which lasted until 1999, some 200,000 people died, mainly civilians massacred by groups.
Nezzar, believed to still wield considerable influence in Algiers, was arrested in Geneva last October on a complaint filed by TRIAL after his familiar burly, mustachioed figure was spotted in the street, apparently on a visit to a bank.
Two Algerian citizens, who have been granted political asylum in Switzerland, backed the complaint, telling Swiss investigators that they had been tortured and abused by soldiers while he held the defence post, Grant said.
After two days of hearings, the 74-year-old general was released after promising that he would take part in any further proceedings. But Grant said lawyers had since represented him while Nezzar himself was believed to be in Algeria.
Nezzar's lawyers could not immediately be contacted.
Lost French suit
Former Algerian officers who fled to France say that many of the killings in Algeria were the work of the military. Nezzar lost a libel suit in Paris in 2002 against one of these officers who had alleged he had directed "false flag" attacks.
Nezzar left his official post in 1993, when the military's ruling High Council of State was dissolved, but diplomats say he kept a powerful role behind the scenes for several years thereafter.
Grant, whose organisation seeks to ensure that senior officials of regimes involved in oppression of their civilian populations do not go unpunished, said Swiss prosecutors would resume hearing witnesses against the general.
Then it would be up to the Swiss Federal Prosecutor, under a law passed in 2011, to formerly indict him. "If he declines to come back to Switzerland as he promised, there could be a question of an international arrest warrant," Grant added.
The Swiss lawyer said the decision by the court, based in Bellinzona in southeast Switzerland, "sets a ground-breaking precedent that could well be followed by many other countries in handling cases like this".
US president's phone call to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan day after terror assault
Candidates to succeed David Cameron must announce by Thursday, Labour leadership challenge expected Wednesday
Fallujah was recaptured by the Iraqi army earlier this week after a more than month-long offensive against Daesh militants
"The notion that Donald Trump could benefit from the same forces that gave the 'Leave' proponents a majority in Britain should sound an alarm for the Democratic Party in the United States," Sanders wrote.
French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday confirmed they were in “full agreement on how to handle the situation” created by Britain’s vote to quit the EU.
Telol al-Baj, near Mosul has been retaken by security forces
The project sets out to provide for some 30M people in the region who go hungry, says African Union official
The Sheraton hotel is now open for business in the capital city of Havana
“Now of course I am sad about that, but frankly I’m more concerned about Britain getting its relationship right with Europe.”
Refugee crisis has led to formation of right-wing terrorist groups, security service warns
Gibraltar is currently in talks with Scotland to discuss the possibility of remaining part of the EU
- Rifaat al-Assad, Syria's vice president in the 1980s, has also been accused of embezzlement
Emergency session at European Parliament prompts angry exchanges between EU leaders and eurosceptics over the Brexit
Senate set to vote on eform package on Tuesday 6 pm, before National Assembly takes it up next week
UK capital needs greater powers following Brexit decision, Sadiq Khan says
As UK's Conservative Party prepares for post-Brexit leadership race, British leader David Cameron travels to Brussels