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The purposes of this paper are: (1) to establish that the Geneva Conventions of 1949 are applicable to the FrenchAlgerian conflict; (2) to present an account of how the Government of France, a signatory to the Conventions, has failed to fulfill its obligation "to respect and ensure respect" 1 for the Conventions in regard to the French-Algerian conflict; (3) to record again the willingness of the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic to accept and apply the Geneva Conventions; (4) to call upon the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions and to impartial humanitarian organizations to use their good offices in urging France to apply to the Algerian conflict, as a minimum, the basic humanitarian principles guaranteed in Article 3, 2. to respect Article 4 of the Prisoners' Convention, 3 and to bring into force by means of special agreement "all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention (s)”. 4

1 Article 1, common to all four Conventions. See Appendix I, p. 59 below.

2 Article 3, common to all four Conventions. See Appendix I, p. 59 below.

3 Article 4, of the Third Geneva Convention. See Appendix II, p. 61 below.

4 Article 3 (2), third paragraph, common to all four Conventions. See Appendix I, p. 60 below.




As background information, this paper will outline briefly the relevant points concerning the origin of the current Algerian conflict; the development of the opposing forces; the construction of the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic; the contrary positions held by the parties to the conflict regarding the legal status of Algeria; and the expressed concern of the United Nations about the Algerian situation and its interest in bringing about a “just and peaceful” solution to the problem.

The paper will treat in greater detail the tragic consequences of this conflict upon human lives and liberties in Algeria. In this respect, it will direct attention to the refusal by the Government of France to apply the basic humanitarian rules of warfare to the Algerian conflict. It will be shown that, as a minimum, Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Article 4 of the Geneva Convention dealing with the "Treatment of Prisoners” should be applied to the Algerian situation.

The willingness of the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic on its part to accept and apply the Conventions will be reaffirmed. (See Appendix VI)

It will be pointed out that the French Government, as a Contracting Party to the Conventions, has a legal obligation to apply, as a minimum, the above-mentioned Articles to the Algerian conflict.


In this respect, the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic will stress its grave concern to ensure that at least the basic humanitarian principles will be respected in the Algerian conflict. Its acceptance of the application of Article 3 of the Conventions is not intended to indicate a change in its position regarding recognition of its belligerent status and of the existence of a state of war in Algeria.

To provide a clearer understanding of the interpretation intended to be given to the Articles mentioned above, the background and relevance of these Articles will be discussed, and reference will be made to the Records of the Diplomatic Conference of 1949 1 where the present Conventions and their provisions were discussed, drafted and adopted. Reference will also be made to the works of the members of the International Committee of the Red Cross 2 who were largely responsible for the inclusion of these Articles in the Conventions and who were present throughout the period of discussion.

On the basis of this, it will be shown that, in conformity with the provisions of the Conventions and the clear intentions of its framers, there is no legal justification for the non-application of the humanitarian principles of the Geneva Conventions to the Algerian conflict.

To illustrate the urgent need for such application, a concise account will be given of French maltreatment of Algerian civllians and military personnel wounded or taken prisoner in battle. In this connection, evidence will be given of the utilization by France of such excesses as torture, reprisals and summary executions.

In conclusion, we shall point to the need and responsibility of the signatories to the Geneva Conventions to use their good offices with the Government of France, to achieve its recognition of the obligation it has assumed "to respect and ensure respect" for the Geneva Conventions.

iFinal Record of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, Vol. II, Section B. Bern, Switzerland: Federal Political Department. See pp. 13, 14, 19, 20 below. 2See pp. 13-14, 2 (c and d), and pp. 20-22.




The Algerian conflict started on November 1, 1954. During that night, organized Algerian guerilla units attacked French military installations, police headquarters, bridges, railways, radio and telephone stations at more than thirty different points. It was a simultaneous action, timed, coordinated and executed according to orders issued by a centralized high command.

The aim of the revolution has been to achieve the independence and freedom of Algeria from France. 1

The movement directing the Revolution is the Front of National Liberation (F.L.N.). The governing body of the F.L.N., the Executive Committee of Coordination (C.C.E.) was responsible before the National Council of the Algerian Revolution, a body composed of representatives of all segments of the population former political groupings, stu

1 The position of the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic on the status of Algeria is that the country was conquered by France after a colonial war which lasted from 1830-1848. Previous to this, Algeria had existed as an independent state, enjoying diplomatic relations with many countries. Following the invasion, a unilateral decision of France declared Algeria “a part of France”. The Algerians have never accepted this status, as demonstrated by the periodic uprisings of the people which have been the consistent history of Algeria under French rule.

dents, labor groups, etc. The five members of the C.C.E. were chosen from among the members of this Council, and were responsible for directing all the organized branches of the revolution (political, military, diplomatic and administrative). The military leaders in charge of the operational activities in the six districts or wilayas (the zonal division of Algeria set up by the F.L.N.) were directly responsible to the C.C.E.

The military organization of the F.L.N. — the Army of National Liberation (A.L.N.) – was developed into a regular armed force with all the characteristics and qualifications of an organized army 1. Its members carry modern equipment, wear uniforms with a distinctive sign to indicate that they belong to the Algerian forces, and take orders from a High Command controlling the entire territory. The Military High Command in turn operated under the direction of the C.C.E. In September, 1958 it was placed under the direction of the Minister of the Armed Forces of the Algerian Provisional Government.

Numerous American and European journalists who have published on-the-scene reports of the Algerian conflict have described the organization of the A.L.N. and verified the fact that the fighting which is going on in Algeria between the A.L.N. and French forces involves battles between regiments and battalions of the opposing sides. 2

1See Appendix III, p. 64 below for a description of the structure of the Army of National Liberation as developed at the First Congress of the Algerian Front of National Liberation, held at La Soummam, Algeria, on August 20, 1956.

2See Le Monde, November 13, 1954. "In the djebel (hills), they (the rebels) are banded together in groups of forty or fifty men, highly mobile and perfectly trained in the methods of combat currently used. Most of them possess uniforms on which the star and crescent are emblazoned, uniforms cut for them by tailors in neighboring villages. Contrary to commonly accredited belief, their weapons are modern: American Garands, German Mausers, Thompson machine guns See Thomas Hodgkin, The Manchester Guardian, July 31, 1957.

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