French forces “tortured and murdered” Algerian lawyer and freedom fighter Ali Boumendjel during his country’s war on independence, the French president has admitted, nearly six decades after his death was passed off as a suicide.
In a big step to repair its damaged relations with Algeria, Emmanuel Macron received four of Boumendjel’s grandchildren at the Elysee Palace on Tuesday and acknowledged the country’s historical crimes.
“[He] did not commit suicide. He was tortured and then killed,” Macron said.
“No crime, no atrocity committed by anyone during the Algerian War can be excused or concealed. They must be looked at with courage and lucidity, with absolute respect for all those whose lives were shattered and destinies were torn apart.”
The official recognition of Boumendjel’s assassination follows the recommendation by historian Benjamin Stora’s report on the memory of colonization and the Algerian war.
The report commissioned by Macron in 2019 and submitted in January this year provides a series of concrete steps “to build bridges” and “address the long-enduring grievances and demands” of Algerian people.
Boumendjel’s widow Malika had fought a long hard battle to establish the truth behind the circumstances of her husband’s death and that of her father Belkacem Amrani, brother Andre Amrani and friend Selhi Mohand, all of whom went missing during the battle in 1957.
The facts were partially revealed in 2000 when French army general and head of intelligence in Algeria Paul Aussaresses became the first senior ranking military official to acknowledge that torture was a “legitimate tool” deployed during the war and his unit was a “death-squad.”
The one-eyed general also revealed that Boumendjel was arrested by his men on Feb. 9, 1957, and later killed and thrown off a building.
An Elysee statement once again reiterated the fact: “At the heart of the Battle of Algiers, he was arrested by the French army, placed in solitary confinement, tortured, then assassinated on March 23, 1957. Paul Aussaresses himself confessed to having ordered one of his subordinates to kill him and to disguise the crime as suicide.”
A French court convicted Aussaresses for defending the use of torture in 2002 and he was later stripped of the country’s highest award, the Legion of Honor.
The 132-year-long occupation of Algeria ended in 1962 with a brutal war. Historians estimate nearly 1.5 million Algerians were killed during the course of the 8-year-long independence struggle.
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