Algerian war for independence

France admits torture, murder of key Algerian independence fighter

Malika Boumendjel, widow of Algerian independence fighter la Ali Boumendjel (photo), in 2001.
Malika Boumendjel, widow of Algerian independence fighter la Ali Boumendjel (photo), in 2001. AFP - ERIC FEFERBERG

French forces tortured and murdered Algerian freedom fighter Ali Boumendjel during his country’s war for independence, President Emmanuel Macron admitted, in an official reappraisal of a death that was for years covered up as a suicide.


Macron made the admission on Tuesday ‘in the name of France’ at a meeting with Boumendjel’s grandchildren.

The move comes after the French president sparked anger among Algerians in January when he refused to issue an official apology for abuses committed during the occupation of Algeria.

Instead, he agreed to form a Truth Commission as recommended by a report commissioned by the government to shed light on France’s colonial past in Algeria.

Atrocities committed by both sides during the 1954-1962 war of independence continue to strain relations between the countries.

'Tortured then killed'

Boumendjel, a nationalist and lawyer was arrested during the battle of Algiers by the French army, "placed incommunicado, tortured and then killed on 23rd March 1957," the Elysée Palace said in a statement.

“Ali Boumendjel did not commit suicide," Macron told Boumendjel’s grandchildren, according to the statement. "He was tortured and then killed."

This is not the first time the real cause of death has been acknowledged.

In 2000, the former head of intelligence in Algiers, Paul Ausseresses, confessed to ordering Boumendjel’s death and disguising the murder as a suicide, according to the statement.

It added that Macron on Tuesday had also reiterated his desire to give families the opportunity to find out the truth about this chapter of history.

Last month, Boumendjel’s niece Fadela Boumendjel-Chitour denounced what she called the “devastating” lie the French state had told about her uncle.

Never-ending memory war

French historian Benjamin Stora, who wrote the government-commissioned report, has said there is a “never-ending memory war” between the two countries.

The report has been described by the Algerian government as “not objective” and “falling below expectations”.

During his 2017 presidential election campaign, Macron – the first president born after the colonial period – declared that the occupation of Algeria was a “crime against humanity.”

He has since been less outspoken and has said there is no question of showing repentance, or of presenting an apology for abuses committed in the North African country.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning