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Torture of terrorists? Use of torture in a "war against terrorism": justifications, methods and effects: the case of France in Algeria, 1954–1962

30-09-2007 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 867, by Raphaëlle Branche

During its war against the armed nationalist movement fighting for Algerian independence (1954-1962), France made extensive use of torture. This article challenges the main justification given for doing so, namely the terrorist methods employed by the National Liberation Front, and sheds light on the way torture took effect in the war.

   

Raphaëlle Branche
is a lecturer in contemporary history at the University of Paris I - La Sorbonne (Centre d’Histoire Sociale du XXe Siècle, UMR 8058). 

 
Abstract 
During its war against the armed nationalist movement fighting for Algerian independence (1954–62), France made extensive use of torture, for which the main justification given was the terrorism employed by the National Liberation Front, even though such terrorist violence was neither the nationalists’ main form of action nor the French army’s true target. Research into the methods used and the aims pursued challenges that justification, shedding light on the way in which torture really operates in a war of this kind, even though the Algerian War has been presented as a model for many subsequent conflict situations.  

   
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