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Statements of two French soldiers, Michel Risse and M. Villette, liberated by the A.L.N. (Army of National Liberation) in December, 1956: (Interview published in France Soir, December 27, 1956)
"Sleeping by day, marching at night, we moved continuously in the mountains with the fellaghas. We were lodged in small villages of the mountains, and shared the meals of the peasants: couscous, bread
tea and coffee." France Soir noted: "The young soldiers insist upon the fact that the fellaghas inflicted absolutely no harsh treatment upon them and insist equally upon the iron discipline which exists among the rebels. Nobody smoke, nobody drank. The officers ate together with their men. Michel Risse, wounded
in the eye,
was treated by Moslem nurses.”
Statements of four French soldiers, liberated by the A.L.N. in October, 1958: (Interview published in France Soir, October 21, 1958)
"I then turned to Vincent Morales (from Istres,
What was your customary menu ?
in, but we were never caught.' Statements of six French soldiers liberated by the A.L.N. in February, 1959: (Interview published in Le Monde, February 22-23,1959)
"The six soldiers liberated by the F.L.N. at Oudja, Friday morning, arrived in Paris that night ...
‘We never went out', they explained, ‘we were not
... During their captivity, some of them, thanks to the International Red Cross, had been able to let their parents know they were alive. The soldier Jean Coulos, of Frieres-Faillouel (Aisne) had even been able to send a tape recording to his parents,
reassuring them of his condition." Statements of five civilians liberated by the A.L.N. (Interview published in France Soir, November 6, 1958)
"We were decently treated", Mr. Burot and Mr. Quintana affirmed. “We received the same nourishment as the rebels, usually couscous and flat bread, and
meat three times a week”. The Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic is prepared to release additional French prisoners in the future in its effort to create the most favorable climate possible for having the Geneva Conventions applied to the Algerian conflict. 1
It is to be recalled that the last line of Article 3 of the Conventions clearly lays down the fact that the legal status
1 On March 6, 1958, 127 soldiers of the A. L. N. and members of the F. L. N. underground had been executed by the French forces. At the same date, there were 201 prisoners condemned to death in the various prisons in Algeria (Le Monde, March 7, 1958). The May, 1958 "clemency" measures announced by General de Gaulle resulted in the commutation of about 140 death penalties into life imprisonment. However, on August 25, 1959, two death sentences were carried out (Le Monde, January 7, 1960), and, following the events of January 24, 1960, 6 Algerians were executed by military squads, while 7 other death sentences were handed down by French military tribunals (The New York Times, February 29, 1960). All the victims had affirmed that they were members of the F. L. N., carrying out their orders, in time of war.
of the Parties to the conflict is in no way affected by the application of this Article. Thus, in urging its application, the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic is not compromising its claim for recognition of its belligerent status or of the fact that the conflict in Algeria constitutes a war.
We may note also that the French Government, despite its official thesis that the Algerian conflict is a "domestic matter”, has taken upon itself the prerogatives of belligerence, e.g., by derouting the Moroccan plane whose passengers included five Algerian leaders, 1 and by searching foreign vessels on the high seas and seizing their cargoes.
Moreover, Article 28 of the Constitution of the Fourth French Republic and Article 55 of the Fifth Republic confer upon international conventions duly ratified by the Parliament, pre-eminence over French laws and regulations. Thus, the present disregard by France of the Geneva Conventions, and, in particular, of Article 3 common to all Conventions and Article 4 of the Third Convention, violates both international law and French internal law.
1 The New York Times, October 23, 1956.
ARTICLE THREE OF THE
It is in no way within the discretionary power of the Government of France to decide when an armed conflict does not present an international character. According to the wide interpretation intended by the Delegates to the Diplomatic Conference of 1949, 1 Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies to every internal armed conflict, whatever its character, even if it is the work of "bandits", to employ the expression of Mr. Lamarle, 2 the French Delegate at the Conference. The Conference only accepted the terminology of Article 3, rather than a more encompassing text, because of the assurance that a wide interpretation would be given to the conflicts where Article 3 must apply. In other words, Article 3 constitutes the minimum humanitarian protection, applicable in all circumstances.
Since the outbreak of the Algerian conflict, France has adopted emergency legislative and administrative measures (special powers to deal with the "state of emergency”). 3 It appears clearly from the debates of the Diplomatic Conference of 1949 that when a State can no longer maintain order through the normal application of its internal common law and is thus obliged to adopt a special code beyond its common laws, this signifies the existence of a grave "internal conflict” necessitating the application of Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.
1 Final Record of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva, 1949, op. cit. See also pp. 20-22 below. 2Ibid., p. 99. 3See Appendix IV, p. 68 below.
Moreover, the International Committee of the Red Cross based the second mission which it undertook in Algeria in February 1956 upon the Geneva Conventions. By authorizing this mission, the Premier of France, Mr. Guy Mollet, explicitly recognized the applicability of Article 3, and a communique of the President of the French Council, dated June 23, 1956, clearly stated that:
"In conformity with Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions regarding armed conflicts not of an international character, which arise on the territory of one of the contracting parties, the International Committee of the Red Cross has offered its services to the French Government. The French Government authorized it to send a mission to Algeria in view of visiting the camps of 'hebergement and eloignement' in which the administrative internees were held, and to visit other places of detention where persons were held because of the events.”
In noting the applicability of Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions to the Algerian conflict, it is important to refer to the analysis of the interpretation intended to apply to Article 3 which has been recorded by the panel of experts of the International Committee of the Red Cross who had worked on the revision of the earlier conventions of war and who were closely associated with the discussions at the Diplomatic Conference of 1949 and the preceding meetings of experts. 1
One of the experts closely associated with the discussions of the Diplomatic Conference of 1949, Frederic Siordet explains that it was recognized by the framers of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 that all too often in conflicts not of an international character “... the legal Government — or that which considers itself to be the legal Government is tempted to regard its adversaries as criminals simply, whose hostile acts fall, not under the provisions of the laws of war, but of the ordinary criminal code." 2
See pp. 13.14 above.
2 “The Geneva Conventions and Civil War”, op. cit., (English Supplement) August 1950, p. 137.