The French Highlight Siege Of Colonial Army’s Archives Relating To Algeria
Access to the archives of the colonial past in Algeria is still one of the open files of the French research community, in spite of the legal and regulatory texts issued in this regard, some of which remain inoperative under the pressure of parties that seem very concerned about the disclosure of documents that could reveal documented horrendous atrocities committed by the French occupying army in Algeria.
In this context, on the fourth of next month, the French capital, Paris, will host a debate on the opening of archives related to the colonial period, at which many specialists in the colonial history of France will speak, on the basis of statements made by the French President, Emmanuel Macron, during his visit to Josette Audin. Josette Audin is the widow of Maurice Audin, the freedom fighter killed by the paratroopers of the French occupying army in September 2018, through whom he spoke about the importance of opening the archives related to the “Algerian war”, by which the French mean the Algerian war of liberation that ended with the expulsion of the occupiers in 1962.
The party in charge of this activity, represented by the “Association of Colonial and Post-Colonial History”, a body subject to French law, confirms that the promise made by the French President regarding access to archives relating to the period of the French occupation of Algeria was quickly revoked at the end of 2019, due to considerations relating in particular to the “defense secret”, even if the French Council of State took promising decisions towards the end of the closure process in July 2021, decisions which, according to the same source, are still facing difficulties.
Among the questions that this forum will try to answer is: “Where are we in 2023 in terms of access to the colonial archives?”, a question that the historian Fabian Chamilo will try to dismantle by limiting the scope of the laws that legalized the lifting of the secrecy of the archives, as well as “related research”.
The recent declassification of the “caves and dugouts of the French occupation army”, which revealed that they committed heinous atrocities with internationally banned chemical gases, is a topic that historian Christophe Lafay is working on.
Among the topics discussed at the Forum, there are some examples of cases in which researchers have been confronted with the problem of defense secrecy in order to prevent them from accessing the archives, such as the case of the communist activist of Italian origin, Henri Kerial, who was assassinated in Paris in 1978 under mysterious circumstances.
The case of the Moroccan dissident Mehdi Ben Barka, assassinated in Paris in 1964 by the Zionist secret service at the request of the Moroccan Makhzen regime of the time, a case that still spills a lot of ink due to the silence of the French authorities, although the crime took place on their soil, and attempts to dismantle the hierarchies of this issue.
Among the cases that the Forum will seek to address is that of the French judge Bernard Borrell, who was murdered in Djibouti. The massacres that took place in Rwanda and the French role in them will also be discussed, provided that all this is followed by a discussion on the creation of a (French) national body to deal with the issue.
It is noteworthy that many of the French laws that prevented historians, researchers and the general public from accessing French archives relating to Algeria were overturned during the era of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who issued a decree in which he decided to restrict legal texts, while the ban still exists because of the “secret defense”.