France's Macron admits system of torture during Algeria war

  • In World
  • 2018-09-13 17:46:38Z
  • By Associated Press

PARIS (AP) - French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday formally recognized the responsibility of the French state in the death of a dissident mathematician in Algeria in 1957, admitting for the first time the French military's "system" that included torture during Algeria's independence war.

Macron visited on Thursday the 87-year-old widow of Maurice Audin, a French anti-colonial activist who disappeared from his Algiers home after his arrest. He asked for her pardon, announced the opening of French archives on the disappeared and expressed hope a new era would dawn for often-bitter French-Algerian relations.

Audin, a French communist mathematician, was arrested in 1957 by the French military during the battle of Algiers. His body has never been recovered, but historians widely believe he was tortured - which Macron acknowledged, a major break with France's official version of the war.

"The only thing I am doing is to acknowledge the truth," Macron told Josette Audin.

Maurice Audin has become the symbol of France's abuses during the brutal war in its former colony that ended with Algeria's independence in 1962. A square in Algiers bears his name and his widow's battle to uncover the truth made his case a cause celebre.

The scars of the seven-year war have yet to heal in Algeria or in France. Unlike other French colonies, Algeria, which France invaded in 1830, was part of the French nation, a colonial jewel.

Both the occupation and the brutality during the war have embittered ties between Algiers and Paris. French authorities did not refer to war at the time, calling the violence, disappearances and bloodshed an "operation to maintain public order." Only in 1999 did France officially call the combat with Algeria a war.

A declaration Macron gave to Josette Audin during his visit spelled out the method used by French soldiers to legally eliminate people like Audin, who clandestinely worked for the liberation of Algeria from the French.

Security forces were allowed to arrest, detain and interrogate all "suspects" through special powers accorded by parliament to the French Army that gave them carte-blanche to re-establish order.

"This system was the unfortunate ground for acts, sometimes terrible, including torture that the Audin affair has highlighted," the declaration says, adding that it made torture a "weapon considered legitimate."

Torture wasn't punished "because it was conceived as an arm against the FLN" - the National Liberation Front fighting for Algeria's independence - "but also against anyone seen as its allies, militants and partisans of independence."

In Algeria, Veterans Affairs Minister Tayeb Zitouni offered a measured reaction, calling the French move a "positive step." But, he added, "we await other gestures and other acknowledgements from the French president."

Historians have long studied the disappearance of Audin and widely concluded he was tortured after his arrest at his home the evening of June 11, 1957.

Macron announced that France will open its archives in the defense, interior and other ministries, telling Audin's widow that "everyone should know the truth."

An official in the presidential Elysee Palace stressed that the archives to be made public are limited to the question of disappearances. It may take up to a year to open them, said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the subject.

Historian Benjamin Stora, a noted specialist on the Algerian war, wrote Thursday in the newspaper Le Monde that Macron's gesture represents a "new marker" in lifting the veil on the brutality of the war and the rancor it has fed.

"How do we grieve this war if we don't evoke the fate of people who were never buried?" he asked.

Macron's predecessor, Francois Hollande, had previously acknowledged that Audin didn't escape - the official version of events until then - but died in jail.


Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed.


More Related News

Lille again chosen to stage Davis Cup final
Lille again chosen to stage Davis Cup final

PARIS (AP) -- The Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille will host the Davis Cup final for the second successive year when defending champion France takes on Croatia from Nov. 23-25, organizers said on Friday.

France to host third Davis Cup final in Lille
France to host third Davis Cup final in Lille

Paris (AFP) - Reigning Davis Cup champions France will return to Lille's Stade Pierre-Mauroy for the final clash against Croatia in November, the French tennis federation (FFT) announced on Friday.

France to press Mali to implement peace deal with rebels
France to press Mali to implement peace deal with rebels
  • World
  • 2018-09-21 14:58:02Z

Bamako is struggling to contain Tuareg and Islamist violence in the north, highlighting the difficulty international partners face in restoring peace in Mali, now a launchpad for attacks by groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State across West Africa. Former colonial power France intervened in 2013

Farmers fume as France stands firm on more Pyrenees bears
Farmers fume as France stands firm on more Pyrenees bears

Dozens of farmers and local officials stormed out of a meeting with France's new environment minister on Thursday as he confirmed two more bears would soon be released into the Pyrenees mountains. Around 40 brown bears currently roam the range between France and Spain after France began importing them from Slovenia in 1996 after the native population had been hunted to near-extinction.

10 European Castles and Palaces You Need to Add to Your Travel Bucket-List
10 European Castles and Palaces You Need to Add to Your Travel Bucket-List

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


Top News: World

Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.