French government admits army torture in Algeria at last

This 2000 Associated Press video says about itself:

General Paul Aussaresses, France’s intelligence chief during the Algerian independence war, four decades ago, now says that “everybody knew” he and his subordinates were conducting torture during the Battle of Algiers.

The 83-year-old General who first admitted to torture and summary executions in an autobiography published last week, now says he has regrets but no remorse because remorse implies guilt of which he has none. Aussaresses’ admission of torture and summary executions, published last week in an interview and a book, “horrified” President Jacques Chirac and plunged France into a self-examination of the nearly eight-year-long war that ended in 1962 with Algerian independence.

The French League of Human Rights filed a lawsuit on Friday against the general, saying the substance of his book constituted an apology for war crimes. Other groups said they planned to file suit for war crimes despite a 1968 French amnesty. The general was intelligence chief, and a leading figure during the brutal 1957 Battle of Algiers. His lapel carried the red Legion of Honor insignia that Chirac said he wants withdrawn. Chirac on Friday also asked Defence Minister Alain Richard to explore eventual sanctions, likely to be symbolic given the general’s age.

Asked personally how he could allow torture to be used during the Battle of Algiers, the General said it was difficult but he ordered his men to do so because he had no choice. However, he indicated that with one copy going to the government’s direct representative – there was no written proof of what was going on. This was despite a daily report he wrote on his division’s activities.

… He said that in his case torture was necessary because of the ‘exceptional conditions’ prevailing.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV, 13 August 2018:

The French state has admitted for the first time that during the Algerian war (1954-1962) the army was guilty of disappearing and torturing political opponents, sometimes resulting in their deaths.

This happened with a visit by President Macron to the 87-year-old widow of Maurice Audin (1932-1957), a mathematician and a communist who committed himself to the Algerian struggle for independence.

Macron admitted that the French state had been responsible for the death of her husband. He asked for forgiveness and promised to open the archives about the war. “Everyone must know the truth”, he said. He also summoned witnesses to the death of Audin to report and make a statement.

Murdered or tortured to death

Audin was arrested by French soldiers in Algeria in 1957 and did not survive. He may have been tortured to death. His body has never been recovered. Macron’s predecessor Hollande never went beyond the statement that Audin had died in captivity.

The death of Audin became the symbol of bloody repression of Algerian independence. A square in the capital Algiers has been named after him.

Marcel Audin in 1950, AFP photo

A statement issued today by the presidential palace shows how soldiers were able to remove people who had committed themselves to the Algerian struggle for independence.

The military were given special powers to pick up, detain and question any suspected person. “Unfortunately, this system became the basis for terrible acts, such as torture in the Audin affair”, the statement said.

In that system, torture was regarded as “a legitimate means”, not only against the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) but also against everyone who sympathized with the FLN.

Relationship with Algeria

… The Franco-Algerian relationship is still bitter because of the cruelty that accompanied the struggle at the time.

The number of deaths on the French side is estimated at 17,500, with 300,000 on the FLN side. Estimates on the number of civilians killed range from 350,000 to 1.5 million.

Given the angry mood among workers in France and across Europe, and the widespread hatred of President Emmanuel Macron, it was perhaps inevitable that the passing of right-wing President Jacques Chirac Thursday would trigger an outpouring of official tributes. The last two years have undermined the self-confidence of the political establishment. The eruption of strikes in America, France and across Europe, and mass political protests by the “yellow vests” in France and by workers and youth in Sudan, Algeria and Hong Kong have marked a resurgence of international class struggle. Chirac’s death reminds PR executives, intelligence officials and editorial writers alike that everything seemed safer and more predictable under his presidency (1995-2007): here.

4 thoughts on “French government admits army torture in Algeria at last

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