Khaled Nizar: The Architect of Algeria's "Black Decade" Featured

By Gamal Khattab January 02, 2024 3100

 

  • Born in 1937, Khaled Nizar was a significant military and political figure in Algeria.
  • Nizar played a crucial role in shaping Algeria's political landscape during the "Black Decade" in the 1990s.
  • In 1990, Nizar was appointed as the Minister of Defense, marking his first high-level managerial position.
  • He was accused of being a spy working for France and setting up detention centers in the desert.
  • In 1993, Nizar survived a failed assassination attempt and gradually distanced himself from politics.
  • Internal and external parties held Nizar responsible for the bloodshed that plagued Algeria in the 1990s.
  • In October 2012, he was arrested by Swiss authorities on charges of committing crimes against humanity during the dark decade.
  • On July 31, 2012, the Federal Criminal Court in Switzerland revoked Nizar's diplomatic immunity, paving the way for his trial in Switzerland.
  • However, the judiciary eventually dropped the charges against Nizar, leading to his return to Algeria in December 2020.

The Rise of Khaled Nizar

Khaled Nizar, born in 1937, was an influential military and political figure in Algeria. He played a crucial role in shaping the country's political landscape, especially during the "Black Decade" in the 1990s. This period was marked by state violence and bombings against Islamists, the majority of Aljerians

Nizar was known by various nicknames, such as "the maker of presidents," "the father of the crutch," and "the architect of the black decade." These names reflected his significant impact on Algerian politics during that time.

Despite facing international prosecutions for charges related to murder and torture against Aljerians, Nizar remained free until his passing.

His father in the Occupying Army

Khaled Nizar was born in the village of Suriana in eastern Algeria in 1937. His father, Rahal Nizar, served as a sergeant in the French army. After leaving the military, he worked as a nurse without a formal degree.

Graduated From a French Military School

At the age of eight, Nizar began his education in a village school, where he learned the Qur'an and the Latin alphabet. He later attended the "Soldiers' Sons" school in Miliana and graduated from the French Military School Saint-Mixon in 1957.

Instead of continuing his career in the French army, Nizar joined the Algerian National Liberation Army in 1958. Some suspicions arose due to his late involvement in the revolution, but he proved his dedication and military expertise.

A Remarkable Military Journey

After Algeria gained independence in 1962, Nizar's military training and experience with the revolutionaries propelled him through the ranks. President Houari Boumediene sought his assistance in the Algerian Ministry of Defense, leading to rapid promotions.

In 1978, Nizar became the commander of the Fifth Military District in eastern Algeria. He later served as the commander of the Algerian Land Army and deputy chief of staff of the army. These positions made him one of the most influential decision-makers in the country.

The events of October 5, 1988, which resulted from deteriorating living conditions and economic collapse, further elevated Nizar's responsibilities. President Chadli Bendjedid entrusted him with maintaining control over the Algerian street.

A Politician in Uniform

In 1990, Nizar was appointed as the Minister of Defense, marking his first high-level managerial position. When the Islamic Salvation Front party won the legislative elections in 1991, Nizar announced the cessation of the electoral process.

Supported by influential factions in power, Nizar devised a plan to reject the results of the elections and convince President Bendjedid to halt the process. However, Bendjedid's sudden resignation in January 1992 sparked controversy, as it occurred just before the second round of elections.

Following Bendjedid's resignation, Nizar became a member of the Supreme Council of State, which appointed Mohamed Boudiaf as the president. Nizar served in this position until the council's term ended, and he resigned from the Algerian Ministry of Defense in July 1993.

Khaled Nizar's legacy remains a subject of debate, with his role in Algeria's history during the "Black Decade" leaving a lasting impact on the country.

The Black Times

Khaled Nizar is a name that became synonymous with the events that unfolded in Algeria in 1988. During this time, live bullets were used against demonstrators, resulting in the tragic loss of over 600 lives. These events marked the beginning of what is now known as the "Black Decade."

Accusations and Resignation

After the resignation of President Chadli Benjedid and his support for halting the electoral process, Khaled Nizar, who was the Minister of Defense at the time, faced increased charges. Some accused him of being a spy working for France, a claim he vehemently denied. Additionally, he was accused of setting up detention centers in the desert, where individuals suspected of having ties to the Islamic Salvation Front were transferred.

Assassination Attempt and Withdrawal

In 1993, Khaled Nizar survived a failed assassination attempt. This incident led him to gradually distance himself from politics. Eventually, he withdrew from political life altogether when Liamine Zeroual assumed power in 1994. Nizar then ventured into the business world and founded an Internet services company in 2000, along with his sons, with a capital of $6 million Algerian dinars.

Responsible For Bloodshed

Internal and external parties held Khaled Nizar responsible for the bloodshed that plagued Algeria in the 1990s. Some soldiers who fled the country revealed the army's involvement in massacres against Islamist families, which were falsely attributed to "extremist elements." In 2001 and 2002, the French judiciary sought to arrest Nizar on charges related to torture or covering it up during his tenure as Minister of Defense. However,  he managed to leave Paris before his arrest.

Arrest and Release

In October 2012, Khaled Nizar was arrested by Swiss authorities on charges of committing crimes against humanity during the dark decade, a period in which more than 250,000 Algerians lost their lives or went missing. However, he was released after the Algerian Foreign Ministry intervened and a petition signed by 177 activists, politicians, and journalists called for his release. Nizar pledged to cooperate with the Swiss judiciary during the investigation.

Revoked Immunity and Allegations

On July 31, 2012, the Federal Criminal Court in Switzerland revoked Khaled Nizar's diplomatic immunity, paving the way for his trial in Switzerland. Following the outbreak of the Algerian movement on February 22, 2019, Nizar was accused by the late Chief of Staff of the People's National Army, Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaid Salah, of collaborating with Said, the brother of the late President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, to undermine the Algerian movement. However, these allegations were not proven in court.

Charges Dropped and Return!

The judiciary eventually dropped the charges against Khaled Nizar, leading to his return to Algeria in December 2020 after the departure of Gaid Salah.