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Between insurgents and government: the International Committee of the Red Cross’s action in the Algerian War (1954–1962)

30-09-2011 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 883, by Françoise Perret and François Bugnion

The French government and an armed insurrectionary movement confronted each other for over seven years in the Algerian War, which would become the archetype of wars of national liberation. It brought the new conditions of struggle in revolutionary warfare to a convulsive climax characterized by terrorist attacks, underground warfare, and repression.

Abstract

The French government and an armed insurrectionary movement – the National Liberation Front (FLN) – confronted each other for over seven years in the Algerian War, which would become the archetype of wars of national liberation. It brought the new conditions of struggle in revolutionary warfare to a convulsive climax characterized by terrorist attacks, underground warfare, and repression. On the humanitarian front, the challenge of ensuring respect for humanitarian rules in asymmetric warfare was posed more bluntly than in any previous conflict. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) faced the triple challenge of offering its services to a government facing an armed insurgency that it claimed to be able to bring under control through police action alone, of entering into contact with a liberation movement, and of conducting a humanitarian action in the context of an insurrectionary war.

Biography

Françoise Perret holds a law degree and has worked for over thirty years for the ICRC as a delegate, particularly in Poland and Africa, and as an editor and historical research officer. François Bugnion, Doctor of Political Science, has been an ICRC delegate in Israel and the Occupied Territories, Bangladesh, Turkey, and Cyprus, and was head of delegation in
Chad, Vietnam, and Cambodia. From 2000 to 2006, he was Director for International Law and Communication of the ICRC. Since May 2010, he has been a member of the ICRC Assembly.


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