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Wednesday, 9 May, 2001, 16:29 GMT 17:29 UK
Action urged against Algeria torture general
French troops in Algerian war
France is still haunted by Algerian past
The authorities in France are coming under increasing pressure to take action against a retired French general who has admitted to personally torturing and executing prisoners during the Algerian war of independence.

France's European Affairs Minister Pierre Moscovici has called for 83-year-old General Paul Aussaresses to be prosecuted, following revelations in his book published last week that he and his troops tortured and killed 24 Algerians in the Battle of Algiers in 1957.

"The book describes very important things which must be condemned and which are absolutely horrifying," Mr Moscovici told France Inter radio, adding that he hoped legal action would lead to a trial.

Gen Paul Aussaresses
The controversial book was published last week

Gen Aussaresses, who was head of military intelligence at the time of the war, maintains in his book, Special Services, Algeria, 1955-1957, that the French troops acted with the full knowledge and consent of the Paris authorities of the time.

Disciplinary action

Last week, President Jacques Chirac urged that the general be stripped of the Legion of Honour, one of the country's highest awards, and called on Defence Minister Alain Richard to consider disciplinary action against him.


I have the law on my side - as well as the orders I received

Gen Aussaresses

Amnesty laws protect French citizens from charges relating to conduct in the Algerian war, in which troops and police fought Algerians seeking independence from France.

However, earlier this week, the Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights Leagues said the legislation could not be used to protect those guilty of the most serious crimes and called for Gen Aussaresses to be charged with crimes against humanity.

Apology

A poll published in the daily Liberation shows that most French people are in favour of legal proceedings being taken against the surviving French officers implicated in torture and killings in the Algerian war.

The time has come to say publicly that the practices used were not all honourable

Environment Minister Dominique Voynet

Most of those questioned in the survey also wanted Mr Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin to apologize to Algeria, a move supported by Environment Minister Dominique Voynet.

"I believe this would be well understood, not just in Algeria but also in France," she told Liberation. "The time has come to say publicly that the practices used [in the Algerian war] were not all honourable".

France's leading daily, Le Monde, has accused the government at the time of ordering and covering up "acts against all the laws of humanity".

It also rejects Mr Jospin's assertion that what happened in Algeria was a matter for historians, calling it "a political matter, and also one for the courts."

Gen Aussaresses himself, however, remains unrepentant. Asked what he thought about the prospect of legal action against him, he told France Inter radio: "I don't care. Worse has happened to me."

He added: "I have the law on my side - as well as the orders I received".

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See also:

04 May 01 | Europe
Chirac condemns torture general
08 May 01 | Middle East
Algeria general 'a war criminal'
07 Feb 01 | Europe
France plans Algeria memorial
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