Macron ad­mits use of tor­ture in Al­ge­ria war

Weekend Herald - - World -

France has for­mally ac­knowl­edged its mil­i­tary’s sys­temic use of tor­ture in the Al­ge­rian War in the 1950s and 1960s, a step for­ward in grap­pling with its colo­nial legacy.

Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron is­sued the state­ment in the con­text of a call for clar­ity about the fate of Mau­rice Audin, a 25-year-old math­e­ma­ti­cian and anti-colo­nial activist who was tor­tured by the French army and forcibly dis­ap­peared in 1957, dur­ing Al­ge­ria’s bloody strug­gle for in­de­pen­dence from France.

Audin’s death is a spe­cific case, but it rep­re­sents a cruel sys­tem put in place at the state level, the El­y­see Palace said.

“His dis­ap­pear­ance was made pos­si­ble by a sys­tem that . . . al­lowed law en­force­ment to ar­rest, de­tain and ques­tion any ‘sus­pect’ for the pur­pose of a more ef­fec­tive fight against the op­po­nent,” read Macron’s state­ment.

Ben­jamin Stora, a lead­ing French his­to­rian of Al­ge­ria, said Macron’s recog­ni­tion rep­re­sented a move away from “the si­lence of the fa­ther” stance that has char­ac­terised France’s re­la­tion­ship to its colo­nial past for decades.

“It per­mits us to ad­vance,” he said. “To exit from de­nial and to ad­vance in the ser­vice of truth.”

Stora ac­com­pa­nied Macron yes­ter­day on an of­fi­cial visit to Audin’s widow, Josette Audin, 87.

Macron, 40, is the first French Pres­i­dent born after the war and has shown a rare will­ing­ness to wade into the mem­ory of Al­ge­ria, ar­guably the most sen­si­tive chap­ter in the French ex­pe­ri­ence of the 20th cen­tury and one that has had a pro­found in­flu­ence on the coun­try’s cur­rent po­lit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions.

Con­quered by France in 1837, Al­ge­ria was a colony but also cast as an in­te­gral part of the coun­try. By the 1950s, it was home to mil­lions of French set­tlers, and when France was forced to give up overseas pos­ses­sions in West Africa and South­east Asia, it al­ways held on tightly to Al­ge­ria.

When the coun­try re­volted in

1954, the sup­pres­sion was sav­age. “Ev­ery­one knows that in Al­giers the men and women ar­rested in th­ese cir­cum­stances did not al­ways re­turn. Some were re­leased, oth­ers were in­terned, oth­ers were brought to jus­tice, but many fam­i­lies lost track of one of their own that year, in the fu­ture cap­i­tal of Al­ge­ria,” the El­y­see state­ment read.

The shadow of the Al­ge­rian war on French so­ci­ety has been com­pared to that of the Viet­nam War for the United States.

On a visit to Al­ge­ria in Fe­bru­ary

2017, Macron, then a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, called French colo­nial­ism “a crime against hu­man­ity”, a re­mark that reignited a bit­ter na­tional de­bate.

In ad­di­tion to recog­nis­ing state au­tho­rised tor­ture, Macron called for the open­ing of archives con­cern­ing those who dis­ap­peared, such as Audin.

Em­manuel Macron

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