Powerful former general, Khaled Nezzar, gave an orthodox defence of the army at a public conference in Paris.
Paris, 26/04/01 – The visit to Paris of hardline former Defence Minister, General Khaled Nezzar, ostensibly to promote his new book, was not in itself unusual.
What was unusual was that that he, a product of the Algerian military establishment, should agree to speak publicly on the Algerian situation and answer questions put to him by an audience at the Algerian Cultural Centre on April 25.
Flanked by lawyer Ali Haroun and well-known novelist Rachid Boudjedra, he predictably rose to the defence of the Algerian army – much beleaguered recently in the wake of damning atrocity allegations – and its policy of all-out repression of Islamist insurgents.
On the FIS
He blamed the reformist government of Hamrouche under « incompetent » former president Bendjedid for legalising the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS).
On the army’s cancelling of parliamentary elections in January 1992
It was not an easy decision but was crucial to the survival of the fledgling democracy and public order. The army was aware it was violating a legitimate process initiated by legitimate authorities, but it was the lesser of two evils and the army accepted its responsibility.
On army excesses
He acknowledged the army had committed excesses but barbarous Islamists justified them.
On missing persons
He did not distinguish between those people who had gone missing and remained unaccounted-for and guerrillas who had been killed. He predicted the final list of missing people would be even longer once peace returned because guerrilla infighting would have killed even more.
On Islamists in the government
He said that the MSP had never resorted to violence and he personally knew Nahnah, whom he described as a patriot. He wondered why there could be Christian Democrats in Italy but no Muslim party in Algeria.
On army corruption
He denied it was deep-rooted. The occasional case had been punished at his own initiative. He then quipped ironically that people were lining up before the courts in France.
On whether the army would ever have to answer for serious human rights violations
He ignored the question.
On his reaction to a criminal action filed against him for torture in Paris
He did not know anything about it.
On Yous Nesroulah’s recently published eyewitness accounts of a mass killing and Habib Souaïdia’s book on army atrocities
He did not mention them, leaving that to Rachid Boudjedra, a fierce anti-Islamist, who described Souaïada as an insignificant NCO and car thief and claimed that any book critical of Algeria got the French media spotlight.