politics

Macron Recognizes French State Torture System in Algerian War

Updated on
  • President visited family of victim and calls to open archives
  • France never recognized state-sponsored torture in colony

French President Emmanuel Macron, right, walks next to Michele Audin, daughter of late Maurice Audin, as he leaves the home of Josette Audin, widow of Audin, on Sept. 13, in Bagnolet.

Photographer: Thomas Samson/AFP via Getty Images

President Emmanuel Macron recognized the French state was responsible for the disappearance of a dissident mathematician in Algeria in 1957 and admitted for the first time to the systematic use of torture in the former colony.

“It is time for the nation to accomplish its duty of truth on this matter,” the 40-year-old president said in a statement. “It is important for this history to be known, to be looked at with lucidity and courage.”

Macron, the first French leader born after Algeria’s independence in 1962, on Thursday visited the widow of Maurice Audin, a young mathematician, communist and anti-colonial activist, who was arrested in Algiers more than 60 years ago. Audin, a member of the settler community who supported the fight against colonial rule, was tortured and killed by French authorities, according to a witness.

The French presidency’s statement acknowledged a legal framework that allowed the armed forces to commit such acts. Macron said the state will open its archives to allow the search for information about other people who disappeared during the war.

War of Independence

The presidency also promised it will stop blocking access and allow historians to investigate the subject freely, a close aide to the president told reporters after his visit to the Audin family. The number of people who were disappeared is unknown, the aide also said.
Algerian rebels began their fight for independence in 1954 and by 1958 the French army had largely crushed the uprising. But the massacre of Algerian civilians by French forces and the use of torture undercut public support for the war, prompting President Charles de Gaulle to begin secret talks with rebel leaders which ultimately let to independence.

France’s last three presidents have struggled to frame relations with Algeria since 2003 when the country’s president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, demanded an apology for the “long, brutal and genocidal” rule.

Le Monde newspaper said Macron’s decision will mean the end of a “state lie.” Macron’s gesture mirrors President Jacques Chirac’s admission in 1995 of France’s role in deporting Jews during World War II, the presidential aide said.

For Macron, the recognition will help improve the integration of people living in France who lived through the war or arrived from North Africa, his aide said. On a visit to Algiers during last year’s election campaign, Macron caused controversy when he said the French state should apologize for the crimes committed during Algeria’s colonial period.

“There have been terrible crimes, there has been torture, there has been savagery,” he said.

— With assistance by Gregory Viscusi