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VIOLATIONS BY FRANCE OF THE BASIC
To illustrate the need for applying the Geneva Conventions to the Algerian conflict this chapter will deal with public evidence of French maltreatment of Algerian civilians, and military personnel. This is not intended to be a detailed account of all the evidence available. The several cases cited have been selected because they represent abuses which are carried out in a general manner and not in isolated cases.
For the purpose of this paper, the abuses will be categorized under the headings of those acts which Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions proclaims to be "prohibited at any time and in any place", namely:
“(a) violence to life and person, in particular, murder of
all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
(b) taking of hostages;
(c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, hu
miliating and degrading treatment; (d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of
executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indis
pensable by civilized peoples.” These provisions of Article 3 have been referred to by the panel of experts of the International Committee of the Red Cross as merely ensuring respect "for the few essential rules of humanity which all civilized nations consider as valid everywhere and under all circumstances and as being above and outside the war itself.” 1 It is important and significant to note that despite the fact that this section of the Convention constitutes the "essential rules of humanity", and despite the fact that Article V of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man, which France ratified, 2 declares:
“no one shall be subjected to torture nor to cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment or treatment", there is undeniable evidence that these acts are being practiced by France in the Algerian conflict. “a) Violation to life and person, in particular, murder of all
kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;”
The fact that torture is being applied by the French military and police in Algeria and France for the purpose of interrogation has been consistently confirmed in reports of commissions of inquiry and the testimonies of French soldiers as well as by victims themselves. Some of this supporting evidence will be discussed below.
The reports of two Commissions which conducted on-thespot investigations of the allegation that human rights and liberties were being abused in Algeria are among the significant sources of verification. The most recent documentation was contained in a secret report submitted to the French Government in January 1960 by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The authenticity of the comprehensive summary of this report, published in Le Monde on January 5, 1960 3 was confirmed by the International Committee of the Red Cross. 4
The International Commission Aga'nst Concentration Camp Practices, an impartial humanitarian organization, carried out an inquiry from June 18 - July 5, 1957 into the conditions of arrest and detention in Algeria. The Commission received the full approval of Prime Minister Guy Mollet, his successor Prime Minister Bourges-Manoury, and Resident
1 Commentary, op. cit., p. 60. 2 Journal Officiel, February 19, 1949. 3 See Appendix V. “The Report of the International Red Cross on the Internment Camps in Algeria.” 4 Le Monde, January 6, 1960.
Minister in Algeria, Robert Lacoste, to undertake this mission. The text of the conclusions 1 of the Commission was communicated to the French Government on July 22, 1957. In a section of the report discussing "tortures”, the Commission stated:
“The delegation is convinced that in several cases, and particularly at two periods, military units (mention has always been made of paratroop units, in most cases of parachutists wearing green berets, then blue berets, and in a few cases, red berets), and constabulary, D. S. T. or police have maltreated arrested persons and often inflicted actual torture on them (by electricity, waterpipe, bathtub, hanging) for the purpose of extorting confessions or statements. The delegation noted in a few isolated cases, traces of burns or fetters said to have been caused by the forementioned tortures. This conviction is based not only on the number, precision, agreement and source of the testimonies received, but also on the fact that one of the IGAMES (Inspector General of the Administration on Special Mission] explicitly recognized in the presence of the delegation that torture was applied and that this was so because this practice alone made it possible to obtain information about projected violence, information that, according to the same authority and other persons, made it possible to save a large number of human lives."
The second body to report on the Algerian situation was the Commission for the Safeguard of Individual Rights and Liberties, established by the Council of Ministers of France and announced in an official communique on April 5, 1957. Its purpose was to determine whether in the application of the decree of March 16, 1956, 2 authorizing special emergency powers for use by civic and military authorities to maintain
1 See Saturn, Vol. III, No. 4, August-September 1957, Paris. This issue of the monthly review of the International Commission Against Concentration Camp Practices reproduces the text of the Commission's conclusions. 2 See Appendix IV, p. 68 below.
order during the Algerian conflict, any abuses of individual rights and liberties had been committed.
In the Synthesis Report of the Commission, 1 two sections, one discussing “violences" and the other "tortures”, confirm that certain infractions were evident:
Acts of Violence
“The Commission's attention was particularly drawn to
1 Le Monde, December 14, 1957. (N. B. The French Government refused to publish the full texts of the individual reports on which the Synthesis was based.)
ment X of the Infantry took into custody about 100 suspected Algerians who were also kept in a wine cellar while waiting to be questioned. They appealed for help during the night, but in vain. The following day, about 50 corpses were found. Lieutenant X, commanding this company, driven to distraction, ordered a work detail to load the bodies and scatter them in the brush about 50 kilometers in the 'prohibited zone' .... The same thing occured at Mercier-Lacombe. During the night of April 16, 1957, twenty-three suspects were enclosed in a wine cellar. The following morning, 16 of them had been asphyxiated ... June 27, 1957, under similar conditions, twenty-one men again were asphyxiated during the night in a wine cellar at Mouzaiaville ... Mr. Delavignette's report notes particularly: “What is the explanation that one month after the fortyone deaths at Ain-Isser, on March 14, the same kind of incident occured at Mercier-Lacombe, twenty kilometers away, on April 16, causing sixteen deaths? ‘Moreover, on the eve of my last trip to Algiers, on June 27, twenty-one suspects were again asphyxiated in a wine cellar, which proves that the very least one can say is that the orders are not obeyed, and they have not been clearly and vigorously enforced; 'In the affair of Ain-Isser, one very serious and significant point must be noted: that is, the attempt to hide the corpses. It indicates a state of mind which can only be understood within the context of the global situation.... 'Lieutenant X no doubt lost control on discovering that forty-one suspects had been asphyxiated due to neglect of elementary consideration. Forty-one deaths, and under such circumstances, is not what is considered by the Service Note of April 18th "a small incident". The Lieutenant tried to dispose of the corpses, that is, the proof. Who assisted him in this by supplying the materials for burial which he ordered? Who gave him moral support