Elements of both sides in the Algerian War of Independence--the French Armed Forces and the opposing Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN)--used deliberate torture during that conflict (1954-1962), creating an ongoing public controversy. Pierre Vidal-Naquet, a French historian, confessed that there were "hundreds of thousands of instances of torture" by the French military in Algeria. The FLN engaged in the use of torture against pro-French and uncommitted members of the Algerian population in retaliation for the French's use of torture.
The armed struggle of the FLN and of its armed wing, the Armée de Libération Nationale (ALN) was for self-determination. The French state itself refused to see the colonial conflict as a war, as that would recognize the other party (the National Liberation Front, FLN) as a legitimate entity. Thus, until 10 August 1999, the French Republic persisted in calling the Algerian War a simple "operation of public order" against the FLN "terrorism." This was therefore a 'classic' colonial war of liberation, and it is on these different viewpoints (police action vs. war) that much of the argument about these events tends to focus.
Thus, the military did not consider themselves tied by the Geneva Conventions, ratified by France in 1951. Besides prohibiting the use of torture, the Geneva Conventions gave the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to the detainees. Detainees, who included not only FLN members but also old men, women and children, were thus not granted prisoner of war (POW) status. On the contrary, they were considered as "terrorists" and deprived of the rights to which belligerents are legally entitled during a war, including cases of civil wars under Geneva Convention Protocol II.
Violence increased on both sides from 1954 to 1956. But in 1957 the Minister of Interior declared a state of emergency in Algeria, and the government granted extraordinary powers to General Massu. The Battle of Algiers, from January to October 1957, remains to this day a textbook example of counter-insurgency operations. General Massu's 10e division parachutiste, (10th Paratroop Division) made widespread use of methods used during the Indochina War (1947-54): they included a systematic use of torture, including against civilians, a block warden system (quadrillage), illegal executions and forced disappearances, in particular through what would later become known as "death flights" (at the time, victims of such methods were known as "Bigeard's shrimps", or "crevettes Bigeard"). All these methods were documented as standard counter-insurgency tactics by Colonel Trinquier in Modern Warfare: A French View of Counterinsurgency (1961), a reference in the areas of "counter-revolutionary war" and of psychological warfare.
Although the use of torture quickly became well-known and was opposed by the left-wing opposition, the French state repeatedly denied its employment, censoring more than 250 books, newspapers and films (in metropolitan France alone) which dealt with the subject and 586 in Algeria.Henri Alleg's 1958 book, La Question, Boris Vian's The Deserter, and Jean-Luc Godard's 1960 film Le Petit Soldat (released in 1963) are famous examples of such censorship. A confidential report of the ICRC leaked to Le Monde newspaper confirmed the allegations of torture made by the opposition to the war, represented in particular by the French Communist Party (PCF) and other anti-militarist circles. Although many left-wing activists, including famous existentialists writers Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, and historian Pierre Vidal-Naquet, denounced without exception the use of torture, the French government was itself headed in 1957 by the general secretary of the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO), Guy Mollet. In general, the SFIO supported the colonial wars during the Fourth Republic (1947-54), starting with the crushing of the Madagascar revolt in 1947 by the socialist government of Paul Ramadier.
The controversy over the use of torture continues to have echoes today. Already in 1977, British historian Alistair Horne wrote in A Savage War of Peace that torture was to become a growing cancer for France, leaving behind a poison that would linger in the French system long after the war itself had ended. At the time, Horne could not confirm or deny that torture had been ordered by the highest ranks of the military and civilian hierarchy of the French state. Despite France's difficulties in looking at its past, which is made evident by the obstacles it continues to put before the historical research, and the way the Algerian War is taught (or not) in French high-schools, the fact that torture had not only been massively employed, but also ordered by the French government, was confirmed by General Paul Aussaresses in 2001.
These revelations followed testimony from a former tortured ALN activist, Louisette Ighilahriz, published in Le Monde on 20 July 2000, three days after the visit to France of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Louisette Ighilahriz declared that she had been tortured for three months and accused as the responsible party General Massu as the then-commander of the French armed forces. Massu used this opportunity to publicly regret the use of torture, declaring that it could have been avoided. On the other hand, General Bigeard violently denied its use.
In 2001, General Aussaresses confessed in his book "Services spéciaux, Algérie 1955–1957" (2001) to having engaged in torture and illegal executions, on direct orders from General Massu. Aussaresses declared that torture had been directly ordered by Guy Mollet's government. Paul Aussaresses was condemned for "apologism for war crimes" because he had justified the use of torture, claiming it had helped to save lives. Although Aussaresses claimed that torture was an efficient way to fight against what he saw as FLN terrorism, recent historical research demonstrates that, contrary to the popular "ticking time bomb scenario", torture was not used for short-term intelligence purposes. Instead, the aim of torture was not to make people talk but to affect the armed groups as a whole and to break the civilian population's morale. Torture was a part of the psychological warfare methods as theorized by General Salan and others (Branche, 2004).
The 2004 Court of Cassation judgment condemning Aussaresses stated that "freedom to inform, which is the basis of freedom of expression" does not lead to "accompany the exposure of facts ... with commentaries justifying acts contrary to human dignity and universally reproved nor to glorify its author."
Torture was a procedure in use since the beginning of the colonization of Algeria, which was initiated by the July Monarchy in 1830. Directed by Marshall Bugeaud, who became the first Governor-General of Algeria, the conquest of Algeria was marked by a "scorched earth" policy and the use of torture, which were legitimized by a racist ideology. In 1841, the liberal thinker and deputy Alexis de Tocqueville could declare:
"War in Africa is a science. Everyone is familiar with its rules and everyone can apply those rules with almost complete certainty of success. One of the greatest services that Field Marshal Bugeaud has rendered his country is to have spread, perfected and made everyone aware of this new science... As far as I am concerned, I came back from Africa with the pathetic notion that at present in our way of waging war we are far more barbaric than the Arabs themselves. These days, they represent civilization, we do not. This way of waging war seems to me as stupid as it is cruel. It can only be found in the head of a coarse and brutal soldier.
Indeed, it was pointless to replace the Turks only to reproduce what the world rightly found so hateful in them. This, even for the sake of interest, is more noxious than useful; for, as another officer was telling me, if our sole aim is to equal the Turks, in fact we shall be in a far lower position than theirs: barbarians for barbarians, the Turks will always outdo us because they are Muslim barbarians. In France, I have often heard men I respect, but do not approve of, deplore that crops should be burnt and granaries emptied and finally that unarmed men, women and children should be seized. In my view these are unfortunate circumstances that any people wishing to wage war against the Arabs must accept.
I think that all the means available to wreck tribes must be used, barring those that the human kind and the right of nations condemn. I personally believe that the laws of war enable us to ravage the country and that we must do so either by destroying the crops at harvest time or any time by making fast forays also known as raids the aim of which it to get hold of men or flocks."
"Whatever the case", continued Tocqueville, "we may say in a general manner that all political freedoms must be suspended in Algeria." Historian Olivier Le Cour Grandmaison thus wrote that "From the years 1840 to the 1962 independence, the physical body of the "Arab" has therefore been used as a terror instrument on which the colonial power has never ceased engraving the marks of its almighty power. Torture in Algeria and in the French Empire: an exception limited to wars of national liberation conducted against the metropole? No, the rule." However, Le Cour Grandmaison's work has been criticized by Gilbert Meynier and Pierre Vidal-Naquet in an article published in Esprit.
Other historians also show that torture was fully a part of the colonialist system: "Torture in Algeria was engraved in the colonial act, it is the "normal" illustration of an abnormal system", wrote Nicolas Bancel, Pascal Blanchard, and Sandrine Lemaire, who have published decisive work on the phenomena of "human zoos." From the smokings (enfumades) of the Darha caves in 1844 by Pélissier to the 1945 riots in Sétif, Guelma and Kherrata", the repression in Algeria has used the same methods. Following the 9 May 1945 Sétif massacres, other riots against the European presence occurred in Guelma, Batna, Biskra, and Kherrata, causing 103 deaths among the colonials. The repression of these riots officially caused 1,500 deaths, but N. Bancel, P. Blanchard, and S. Lemaire estimate it to be rather between 6,000 and 8,000 deaths
Three years before the 1954 Toussaint Rouge insurrection, Claude Bourdet, a former Resistant wrote an article published on 6 December 1951 in L'Observateur, which was titled "Is there a Gestapo in Algeria?" Torture had also been used during the Indochina War (1947-54).
Historian Raphaëlle Branche, maîtresse de conférences in contemporary history at the University of Paris I - Sorbonne, who wrote her doctoral thesis on the use of torture during the Algerian war, noted that "in metropolitan France, torture did not attain the same height as in Algeria. It remained however, on both banks, a practice tolerated by the authorities and a form of violence to which Algerians knew they could be subjected."
Early in the war, the FLN was progressively assuming control in Algeria through targeted acts of terrorism against French nationals and Algerians supporting the French. From 1954 to 1956, the amount of violence massively increased, accompanied by summary executions and internment in camps. Justified by the notion of "terrorism", torture was used indiscriminately against military detainees and civilians suspected of aiding the FLN. General Salan, commander-in-chief of the French forces in Algeria, had developed in Indochina a theory of "counter-revolutionary warfare" that included the use of torture.
The ICRC was authorized by Radical-Socialist prime minister Pierre Mendès France on 2 February 1955, to have access to the detainees for short missions of one month, but their report "was not to be made public." His government had to resign three days later. According to historian Raphaëlle Branche, "it was as if Mendès France was preparing for his departure by setting up as many protective barriers as possible." The French Army did not consider the detainees as POW's, but as PAM (French acronym for "taken captive while in possession of weapons", pris les armes à la main).
The civilian authorities relinquished control to the military during the Battle of Algiers from January to October 1957. Thus, General Jacques Massu, commander of the 10th Parachute Division (10e DP), in charge during the Battle of Algiers, was to crush the insurgency by whatever means necessary. They threw hundreds of prisoners into the sea from the port of Algiers or by helicopter death flights. Since the corpses sometimes came back up to the surface, they began to pour concrete on their feet. These victims were known as "Bigeard's shrimps" ("crevettes Bigeard") after the surname of a notorious paratroop helicopter commander. French military chaplains quieted the troubled military's consciences. One of them, Louis Delarue, wrote a text distributed to all units:
"If, in the general interest, the law allows a murderer to be killed, why should it be seen as monstrous to submit a delinquent who has been recognized as such, and is therefore liable to be put to death, to an interrogation which might be painful but whose only object is, thanks to the revelations he may make about his accomplices and leaders, to protect the innocent? Exceptional circumstances call for exceptional measures."
In 1958 General Salan set up special military internment centers for PAM rebels. The Minister of Interior declared a state of emergency, while the army engaged in a "struggle against the terrorism" of the FLN. Special powers were devolved to the military and were returned to civilian powers only in September 1959, when Charles de Gaulle made his speech on self-determination. General Salan refused to apply the Geneva Conventions ratified by France in 1951 because the detainees were not POW's. The civil authorities had different attitudes concerning the use of torture by the military. The IGAME (Inspecteur général en mission extraordinaire) of both Oran and Algiers chose to avoid the issue, whereas the IGAME of Constantinois, Maurice Papon (who died in 2007 after having been convicted for crimes against humanity for his role under Vichy), was actively involved in repression (Branche, 2004).
On 5 January 1960 the newspaper Le Monde published a summary of the report on the ICRC's seventh mission to Algeria. "Numerous cases of ill-treatment and torture are still being reported", the article disclosed, giving the ICRC's legitimacy to the many previously documented cases. A colonel in the French police force had told the delegates, "The struggle against terrorism makes it necessary to resort to certain questioning techniques as the only way of saving human life and avoiding new attacks." (Branche, 2004).
It was found much later that Gaston Gosselin, a member of the Ministry of Justice who was responsible for internment issues in metropolitan France, had leaked the report to the journalists of Le Monde. He had to resign a few months later, and the ICRC was prohibited for a year from undertaking any mission to Algeria.
Henri Alleg, director of the Alger Républicain newspaper and of the Algerian Communist Party (PCA), who himself had been tortured, denounced it in La Question (Minuit, 1958), which sold 60,000 copies in one day. The title of his book referred to the Inquisition, who was said to put people "to the question." Alleg's book detailed the various torture methods, which included the infamous gégène, an electricity generator initially used for telephones, sleep deprivation, and truth serums, etc. Beside torturing actual suspects, the French military also buried alive old men.[dead link]
Benoist Rey's book Les égorgeurs was also censored in April 1961. In the same year, he denounced torture as a "habitual repressive method, systematic, official, and massive."
According to an article of Verité Liberté published in 1961, "In the Ameziane farm, a CRA (Centre de renseignement et d'action, Information and Action Center) of Constantine it is practiced on "industrial scale". The suspects were arrested during raids, after having been denounced. Suspects were divided into two groups, those immediately interrogated and those who would be forced to wait a bit. The latter were deprived of food for from two to eight days in a blatant violation of the 1949 Geneva Conventions."
According to historian R. Branche, torture would begin with the systematic stripping of the victim. Beating was combined with many different techniques, among them hanging by the feet or hands, water torture, torture by electric shock, and rape. It was described by "Verité Liberté":
"The interrogatories is done in accordance with the provisional guide of the intelligence agent (Guide provisoire de l'officier de renseignement, OR), chapter IV: first, the officer questions the prisoner in the "traditional" manner, hitting him with fist and kicking him. Then follows torture: hanging..., water torture..., electricity..., burning (using cigarettes, etc.)... Cases of prisoners who were driven insane were frequent... Between interrogation sessions, the suspects are imprisoned without food in cells, some of which were small enough to impede lying down. We must point out that some of them were very young teenagers and others old men of 75, 80 years or more."
According to the "Vérité Liberté", the end of these torture sessions was either liberation (often the case for women and for those who could pay), internment, or "disappearance." "The capacity of this center, opened in 1957, is of 500 to 600 persons...Since its constitution, it has "controlled" (incarcerated for fewer than 8 days) 108,175 persons; filed 11,518 Algerians as nationalist activists...; kept for a duration of more than 8 days 7,363 persons; interned to Hamma [an internment camp] 789 suspects."
The systematic use of torture created a national controversy which has had lasting effects on French and Algerian society. As early as 2 November 1954, Catholic writer François Mauriac called against the use of torture in L'Express in an article titled Surtout, ne pas torturer ("Above all, do not torture.").
Two important officials, one civilian and another military, resigned because of the use of torture. The first was Paul Teitgen, former General Secretary of the Algiers Police, who had been himself tortured by the Gestapo. He resigned on 12 September 1957, in protest against the massive use of torture and extrajudicial killings. The other was General de Bollardière, who was the only army official to denounce the use of torture. He was put in charge of military arrests and then had to resign.
Torture was denounced during the war by many French left-wing intellectuals, members or not of the PCF, which maintained an anti-colonialist line. Under pressure from the left-wing opposition to the war and the use of torture, including the French Communist Party (PCF), the government, then led by Guy Mollet (SFIO), created a Commission of Safeguard of Rights and Individual Liberties, composed of various personalities named by the government, which gave the public its report in September 1957: according to it, torture was a frequent practice in Algeria. However, some claim that the main aim was in fact to absolve the French army of accusations and to gain time (Raphaëlle Branche, 2004).
Henri Alleg, denounced it in La Question, which along with La Gangrène, by Bachir Boumaza, and Italian Communist Gillo Pontecorvo's 1966 film The Battle of Algiers were censored in France. Torture was also evoked during the trial of ALN activist Djamila Boupacha, defended by lawyer Gisèle Halimi. Writer Albert Camus, a Pied-noir and famous existentialist, tried unsuccessfully to persuade both sides to at least leave civilians alone, writing editorials against the use of torture in Combat newspaper. Other famous opponents of torture included Robert Bonnaud, who published on counsel of his friend Pierre Vidal-Naquet an article in 1956 in L'Esprit, a personalist review founded by Emmanuel Mounier (1905-1950). Bonnaud was later imprisoned in June 1961, on a charge of supporting the FLN. Pierre Vidal-Naquet, one of the many signatories to the Manifeste des 121 against torture, wrote a book, L'Affaire Audin (1957), and, as a historian, would continue to work on the Algerian War all his life. Beside Vidal-Naquet, famous signatories of the Manifeste des 121, published after the 1960 Barricades Week, included Robert Antelme, an Auschwitz survivor and writer, writers Simone de Beauvoir and Maurice Blanchot, Pierre Boulez, writer André Breton, Hubert Damisch, writer Marguerite Duras, Daniel Guérin, Robert Jaulin, Claude Lanzmann, Robert Lapoujade, Henri Lefebvre, writer Michel Leiris, Jérôme Lindon, editor of the Minuit publishing house, François Maspero, another editor, Théodore Monod, Maurice Nadeau, Jean-François Revel, Alain Robbe-Grillet, author and founder of the nouveau roman, writers Françoise Sagan, Nathalie Sarraute, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Claude Simon, Jean Bruller (Vercors), Jean-Pierre Vernant, Frantz Fanon, etc.
According to Henri Alleg, "in reality, the base of the problem was this unjust war itself. From the moment one starts a colonial war, i.e. a war to submit a people to one's will, one can issue all the laws one wants, but they will always be violated."
Pierre Vidal-Naquet (1930-2006), one of the leaders of the Comité Audin, had denounced the systematic use of torture by the 10e DP during the 1957 Battle of Algiers. But he also denounced the non-systematic use of torture, mainly beatings, by the French Army on members of the Organisation armée secrète (OAS), a far-right terrorist group which after the March 1962 Évian Accords engaged in a campaign of bombings directed against the civilian population in Algeria. He wrote a letter in L'Esprit in May 1962:
"Have OAS activists or sympathizers been tortured during these last months in Algeria?... far-right weekly newspapers, La Nation française, Rivarol, Carrefour have started to publish articles on crimes committed against supporters of French Algeria. Articles which are sometime strange: in the 1 November 1961 issue of Carrefour, for example, M. Vinciguerra, who was, with Kovacs, one of the torturers in the Villa des Sources, offered his indignation, and on the next page we could read the prose of...Colonel Trinquier... We certainly do not forget that torture is a system that has been established in Algeria by policemen and military men of whom many are today members of the OAS. But we do not forget either that torture is a gangrene which largely overhauls the frame of colonial war. Whoever are the victims, these torturers speak and act in our name; we do not have the right to allow, by our silence, the belief that we are their accomplices. The half-voluntary ignorance, the cowardly indifference, in which readers of the Figaro have basked for years do not justify themselves in any case, whatever may be the ensign with which one would pretend to cover them, and anti-fascism least of all...
- It is striking to observe that these tortures, more than the "scientific" technologies applied during the Battle of Algiers, seem to apply in most cases to beatings (passages à tabac) disproportionately aggravated by the responsible policeman.
- ...any symmetry with the 1957 Battle of Algiers would however be absurd; it was all of the 10th D.P. which in 1957 controlled, arrested, and tortured. The team of the "Tagarins" [barracks] remains to the contrary isolated...To our knowledge, nobody has accused the units charged with controlling Bab-el-Oued of torturing...
This having been said, there is no need to dissimulate against the truth; such facts are scandalous and intolerable. They also proceed from a ruthless logic. It was difficult for an army and a police force which has for years tortured Muslims to abandon such methods on the pretext that the opponent is no longer the same. The struggle against the OAS must be directed with ruthlessness, certainly, but it is not with teams of torturers, and even less with courts-martials that we will arrest what J.-M. Domenach called a "clandestine fascism." There still remain other methods. The arrest of Generals Salan and Jouhaud [leaders of the OAS] has just proved it.
Pierre-Vidal Naquet, Member of the Bureau of the Comité Audin.
PS: I do not want to be unfair towards all these right-wing men: some have been able to engage in self-criticism and to recognize, as did Philippe Ariès in La nation française, that they had erred in their judgment by opposing the campaign against torture.
The war also affected metropolitan France. Little firm evidence exists about the use of torture by either side in France, but there were instances where French police or police auxiliaries may have engaged in torture as well as murder of FLN agents or protesters, and likewise the FLN may have used torture in eliminating opponents and collecting funds among Algerian expatriates in France.
From 1954 onward, the FLN sought to establish a politico-military organization among the 300,000 Algerians residing in France; by 1958, it had overwhelmed Messali Hadj's Algerian National Movement, despite the latter's popularity with Algerian expatriates at the onset of the war. Torture was occasionally used alongside beatings and killings to eliminate opponents of the FLN, and the death toll of this internecine violence within France alone was approximately 4,000. Subsequently, the FLN used this organization to obtain a "revolutionary tax" that FLN leader Ali Haroun estimates amounted to "80% of the [financial] resources of the rebellion"; this was partly done through extortion, in some instances by means of beatings and torture.
After being involved in early repression in Constantine, Algeria as prefect, Maurice Papon was named head of the Parisian police on 14 March 1958. Tensions increased after 25 August 1958, when an FLN guerilla offensive in Paris killed three policemen on boulevard de l'Hôpital in the 13th arrondissement and another in front of the cartoucherie de Vincennes, leading to arrests and jailing of Algerians suspected of supporting the FLN. In 1960 Papon created the Auxiliary Police Force (FPA - Force de police auxiliaire), which was made up of 600 Algerians by Autumn 1960 and operated in areas densely populated by Algerians in Paris and its suburbs. While incompletely evidenced, the strongest presumption of torture by the FPA pertains to two locations in the 13th arrondissement.
Further escalation occurred from August to October 1961 as the FLN resumed bombings against the French police, and killing 11 policemen and injured 17 (in Paris and its suburbs). This culminated on 17 October 1961, when the French police suppressed a demonstration by 30,000 Algerians who were ostensibly protesting against a de facto curfew imposed on them by the prefecture of police, though the FLN had planned the demonstration as a potential provocation as well. While estimates differ, the number of dead officially acknowledged (in French government reports and statements of 1998) in putting down this demonstration was 40 to 48. Some protesters may have been tortured before being killed and having their bodies thrown in the Seine.
An important issue within metropolitan France was public opinion, given that a substantial native population held a formally anticolonialist ideology (Communists, in particular) or was debating the war. The parties fought on this front too. The Prefecture of Police denied using torture or undue violence. Conversely, informers reported an organized campaign to implicate the FPA such that FLN "leaders and carefully chosen militants from the workers' residence in Vitry - 45, rue Rondenay - have been tasked with declaring in cafés and public places that they have suffered exactions, were robbed of pocketbooks or watches[...], and were victims of violence by the 'Algerian police'." A note diffused by the French arm of the FLN to its branches in September 1959 specifically focused on making claims of torture to influence the legal system:
For those of our brothers who will be arrested, it is important to specify what attitude they must adopt. Regardless of the way that the Algerian patriot is treated by police, he must in all circumstances, when presented to the prosecutor state that he has been beaten and tortured... He must never hesitate to accuse the police of torture and beatings. This greatly influences the judge and courts.
No one was brought to justice for crimes committed during the war, not even for the case of Maurice Audin, a young communist university lecturer arrested and tortured to death. The case had been specifically documented at the time by the "Comité Audin", to which historian Pierre Vidal-Naquet belonged.
The OAS members were given amnesty by president François Mitterrand (PS), and a general amnesty for all war crimes was declared in 1982. Pierre Vidal-Naquet, among others, has qualified it as a "shame".
The archives of the war were closed to the public for thirty years, a period extendable for up to 60 years for those documents that were liable to compromise a person's privacy or state security. It was only in 1995-96 that new works began to reveal information.
General Jacques Massu, had defended the use of torture in his 1972 book, The True Battle of Algiers (La vraie bataille d'Alger). He later declared to Le Monde in 2000 that "torture was not necessary and that we could have decided not to use it".
Two days after the visit to France of Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Louisette Ighilahriz, a former Armée de Libération Nationale activist, published her testimony in Le Monde on 20 June 2000. At the age of twenty she had been captured in September 1957, during the Battle of Algiers, and raped and tortured for three months. She named General Massu as the responsible of the French military at the time. Massu, 94 years old, acknowledged Ighilahriz's testimony and declared to 'Le Monde' that "Torture isn't indispensable in times of war, and one can very well do without it. When l look back on Algeria, it saddens me... One could have done things differently." To the contrary, General Bigeard (then Colonel) called her remarks a "tissue of lies", while Aussaresses justified it
General Paul Aussaresses admitted in his 2001 book, "Services spéciaux, Algérie 1955–1957", to the systematic use of torture during the war. He confessed to having himself engaged in torture and having himself illegally executed 24 Algerians, under the orders of Guy Mollet's government. He also acknowledged the assassination of lawyer Ali Boumendjel and head of FLN in Algiers, and Larbi Ben M'Hidi, which had been covered up as "suicides." For justifying the use of torture, he was condemned in court, and stripped of his army rank and his Legion of honor.
According to Aussaresses, Massu followed on a daily basis the list of "interrogated" prisoners and of "accidents" which occurred during these torture sessions. Aussaresses said that it had been directly ordered by Guy Mollet's government. He notably declared:
"I have given daily accounts of my activity to my direct superior, General Massu, who informed the Chief of Staff. It would have been possible for the political or military authority to put an end to it at any moment."
He also wrote:
"Concerning the use of torture, it was tolerated, if not recommended. François Mitterrand, the Minister of Justice, had, as a matter of fact, an emissary near [General] Massu in the person of judge Jean Bérard who covered us and knew exactly what was going on at night."
However, historian Pierre Vidal-Naquet said, concerning Mitterrand, who was President of France from 1981 to 1995, that "when he was Justice Minister in 1956-57, during the Algerian War, he has been not as bad as had been claimed. He had under his charge only civil justice, and Reliquet (the public prosecutor in Algiers and who was a liberal [i.e. "liberal" in French usually refers to economic liberalism]) personally told me that he never received such strict instructions against torture as that which he had had from Mitterrand."
Following Aussaresses' revelations, which proved that torture had been ordered by the highest levels of the French state hierarchy, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to President Jacques Chirac (RPR) to indict Aussaresses for war crimes, declaring that, despite past amnesties, such crimes, which may also have been crimes against humanity, may not be amnestied. The Ligue des droits de l'homme (LDH, Human Rights League) deposed a complaint against him for "apology of war crimes", as Paul Aussaresses justified the use of torture, claiming it had saved lives. He was condemned to a 7,500 Euros fine by the Tribunal de grande instance court of Paris, while Plon and Perrin, two editing houses who had published his book in which he made an apology of the use of torture, were sentenced each to a 15,000 Euros fine. The judgement was confirmed by the Court of Appeal in April 2003. The Court of Cassation rejected the intercession in December 2004. The Court of Cassation declared in its judgment that "freedom to inform, which is the basis of freedom of expression" does not lead to "accompany the exposure of facts ... with commentaries justifying acts contrary to human dignity and universally reproved", "nor to glorify its author." Aussaresses had written in his book: "torture became necessary when emergency imposed itself."
However, the Court of Cassation rejected the complaint which had been deposed against him on charges of torture, claiming they were amnestied.
General Marcel Bigeard, who had denied employing torture for forty years, finally also admitted that it had been used, although he claimed that he personally had not engaged in the practice. Bigeard, who qualified FLN activists as "savages", claimed torture was a "necessary evil." To the contrary, General Jacques Massu denounced it, following Aussaresses' revelations, and before his death pronounced himself in favor of an official condemnation of the use of torture during the war.
Bigeard's justification of torture has been criticized by various persons, among whom Joseph Doré, archbishop of Strasbourg, and Marc Lienhard, president of the Lutheran Church of the Augsburg Confession of Alsace and Lorraine.
In June 2000, Bigeard declared that he was based in Sidi Ferruch, known as a torture center from which many Algerians never left alive. Bigeard qualified Louisette Ighilahriz's revelations, published in Le Monde on 20 June 2000, as "lies". An ALN activist, Louisette Ighilahriz, had been tortured by General Massu. She herself called Bigeard a "liar", and criticized him for continuing to deny the use of torture 40 years later. However, since General Massu's revelations, Bigeard has now admitted the use of torture, although he denies having personally used it. He then declared: "You are striking the heart of an 84-year-old man." Bigeard also recognized that Larbi Ben M'Hidi had been assassinated, and his death disguised as a "suicide".
Jean-Marie Le Pen, former leader of the far-right National Front party and a lieutenant during the war, attacked Le Monde and former Prime minister Michel Rocard on charges of defamation after the newspaper accused him of having engaged in torture. However, he lost his trial, with the French justice declaring Le Monde's investigations as legitimate and credible, though Le Pen appealed. Le Pen still denies the use of torture, claiming there had been only "interrogation sessions". Le Monde produced in May 2003 the dagger he allegedly used to commit war crimes as court evidence. This affair ended in 2000 when the "Cour de cassation" (French supreme jurisdiction) concluded that it was legitimate to publish these assertions. However, because of the amnesty and the prescription, there can be no criminal proceedings against Le Pen for the crimes he is alleged to have committed in Algeria. In 1995, Le Pen unsuccessfully sued Jean Dufour, regional counselor of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (French Communist Party) for the same reason.Pierre Vidal-Naquet in "Torture; Cancer of Democracy" alleges that, after being refused a drink at an already closed bar in Algiers, Le Pen had the bartender tortured to death.
There are both French and U.S. pathways that explain the spread of torture, including methods used in Algeria, to Latin American regimes allied with the West from the 1960s onwards.
Regarding the French pathway, journalist Marie-Monique Robin argued in her 2004 book on death squads how French intelligence agents had taught their Chilean and Argentine counterparts the use of torture and "disappearances" as a counter-insurgency tactic. Her argument was based on several filmed interviews of high-ranking Argentine military officers, who were themselves accused of torture at the time. French intelligence agents have long been suspected of having trained their Argentine counterparts in "counter-insurgency" techniques. In testimony in January 2007 before Argentine judges, Luis María Mendía, Argentine Admiral and originator of the "death flights" during the "Dirty War", referred to Marie Monique Robin's film documentary titled The Death Squads - the French School (Les escadrons de la mort - l'école française), which argued that the French intelligence services had trained Argentine counterparts in counter-insurgency techniques. Attempting to exonerate himself, Luis María Mendía used this source to ask that former French president, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, former French premier Pierre Messmer, former French ambassador to Buenos Aires Françoise de la Gosse, and all officials in place in the French embassy in Buenos Aires between 1976 and 1983 be brought before the court. Robin also argued that a 1959 agreement between France and Argentina instaured a "permanent French military mission" which was located in the offices of the chief of staff of the Argentine Armed Forces. However the argument is questionable as Robin argued that the mission consisted of veterans of the Algerian War, which would have been extremely unlikely at the onset of the purported mission (since the war in Algeria was ongoing) and remains an undocumented claim even after 1962.
The French role in spreading torture to Latin America appears modest, in terms of geographic scope and seniority of the officers involved, relative to local and other foreign sources. During the 1960s, the U.S. started spreading the use of torture to its allies in Latin America, specifically torture using electrical generators, with Brazil and Andean cone countries first. The training of Latin American officers, including a number of future tortionists and leaders who ordered torture, was conducted on a large scale via the formal education programs of the School of the Americas. This U.S. pathway leads directly to SOA graduate Leopoldo Galtieri, the Argentine dictator and commanding officer of Luis María Mendía. It is under Galtieri's regime that the use of torture became systematic in Argentina; other countries where SOA graduates were accused of involvement in torture or political murders include Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia, Panama and Haiti.
The French and U.S. pathways have a common root, as the use of electrical generators for torture was invented in America in 1908, spread in Asia during World War II, and passed to both French and U.S. forces during their respective involvement in the First Indochina War and the Vietnam War (or Second Indochina War).
John McGuffin's book "Beating the Terrorists" (Penguin) also alleges that French advisors were seen at Fort Morbut in Aden during the independence war. In that case, regardless of the correctness of this allegation or the mission of these advisors, their role was minute relative to that of the British forces trying to ensure a peaceful transfer of power during Aden Emergency.