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

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.

About the authors

Françoise Perret

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
Independent consultant in international humanitarian law and humanitarian action

François Bugnion is an independent consultant in international humanitarian law and humanitarian action. He joined the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 1970 and served as a delegate in Israel and the occupied territories, Bangladesh, Turkey, and Cyprus, and then as head of mission in Chad, Viet Nam, and Cambodia. From 2000 to 2006, he was Director for International Law and Cooperation at the ICRC. He has been a member of the ICRC Assembly since May 2010. He is the author of more than fifty books and articles on international humanitarian law and on the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.