Algeria: Massacres of 8 May 1945 - Historical Responsibility Haunts France

analysis

ALGIERS-Algeria will commemorate Wednesday the 74th anniversary of the massacres of 8 May 1945, which killed more than 45,000 shaheed (martyrs), victims of crimes against humanity whose historical responsibility haunts the French State.

Committed by the French Army, these crimes were one of the topics discussed under the "Great National Debate" launched by Emmanuel Macron to settle the social crisis that has become political.

This debate was an opportunity to expose the hideous face of French colonialism France has sought to glorify.

As a witness of the National Liberation War, Anticolonialist Henri Pouillot sent a letter to French Head of State, in which he underlined the urgent need "to recognize and condemn the crimes against humanity (torture, rape, Bigeard shrimps and wooden chores), war crimes (600 to 800 villages razed to the ground with napalm and the use of VX and Sarin gas...) and state crimes (massacres in Setif/Guelma/Kherrata in May 1945 and massacres in Paris on 17 October 1961)."

The pressure of the street on the French authorities was illustrated, at the end of April, by a call launched, on the occasion of the commemoration of the massacres of 8 May 1945, by a Collective composed of 31 associations, a trade union (Union syndicale Solidaires) and 6 political parties for "strong actions" by the highest French authorities, the opening of all archives, the inclusion of these events in the national memory and support for the broadcasting of documentaries on the events in national education and in the public media.

The same Collective, which is calling for a rally on May 8 at the Place du Chatelet in Paris, said it was "impossible" to celebrate the anniversary of the victory against fascism "without a willingness to wrest from oblivion what happened in Algeria on May 8, 1945 and the following days."

In an article published by Mediapart website, intellectuals François Gèze, Gilles Manceron, Fabrice Riceputi and Alain Ruscio stated that "France's colonial adventure resulted in criminal mass conquests and repressions that seriously violated the values the country proclaimed elsewhere and to which it continues to refer."

According to them, the highest authorities of the French State "have many things" to say to "recognize, for example, the massacres of May-June 1945 in Algeria."

If President Macron does not decide to commit himself "resolutely" to a "full and complete" recognition of the French Republic's mistakes and crimes, he will "expose himself to the risk of remaining in history as the one who simply sought to use, for electoral purposes, the colonial issue."

During his visit to Algeria as part of his election campaign on 5 February 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron, candidate at that time, described colonization as a "crime against humanity."

In response to a question from the electronic newspaper "Mediapart", on May 5, 2017, the French President said that he would "take strong action" on this period of our history.

President Macron admitted on 19 March that the colonial system in Algeria was "unjust" and "denied the aspirations of peoples to decide their faith."

He acknowledged that France recognized state crimes through the Maurice Audin affair, and was ready to return to Algeria the skulls of the leaders of the popular resistance kept at Le Musée de l'Homme in Paris and deliver copies of the archives concerning Algeria from 1830 to 1962.

An imprescriptible state crime

The massacres committed by France against the Algerian people on 8 May 1945 are imprescriptible, under the provisions of international law relating to war crimes, as "there are no legal restrictions", according to the lawyers, to initiate legal proceedings against France, even if it is impossible "to apply personal responsibility since the perpetrators of these crimes are no longer alive". However, Algeria may "demand that the institutions within which these persons performed their duties compensate the damage through legal and diplomatic measures."

Actors of the associative movement, led by the Association of 8 May 1945, intend to take the necessary measures to request the classification of the massacres of 8 May as "crimes of genocide against humanity" and their submission to the UN. They also seek to demand apology and compensation for the victims.

The massacres of 8 May 1945 were a decisive turning point in the maturation of the Algerian resistance's thinking, laying the foundations for a new orientation based on the rule that "what was taken by force must only be restored by force", and exposing the false promises made by colonial France to the Algerian people to mobilize them during the Second World War.

Perpetuated in several regions of the country where tens of thousands of Algerians were victims of French repression, these massacres represent another side of the horrible face of colonial France.

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