French parliament condemns 1961 Paris massacre of Algerians

AFP , Thursday 28 Mar 2024

The French parliament's lower house on Thursday approved a resolution condemning as "bloody and murderous repression" the killing by Paris police of dozens of Algerians in a crackdown on a 1961 protest to support Algerian independence.

Algerian demonstrators
File Photo: Algerian demonstrators arrested in Puteaux, west of Paris, during the peaceful demonstration on October 17, 1961. AFP


In recent years France has made a series of efforts to come to terms with its colonial past in Algeria.

Dozens of peaceful demonstrators died during a crackdown by Paris police on a protest by Algerians in 1961. The scale of the massacre was covered up for decades by French authorities before President Emmanuel Macron condemned it as "inexcusable" in 2021.

The text of the resolution, which is largely symbolic, stressed the crackdown took place "under the authority of police prefect Maurice Papon" and also called for the official commemoration of the massacre.

The bill, put forward by Greens lawmaker Sabrina Sebaihi and ruling Renaissance party MP Julie Delpech, was approved by 67 lawmakers, mainly representatives of the left and Macron's party.

Eleven voted against, all members of the far-right National Rally party.

Sebaihi said the vote represented the "first step" towards the "recognition of this colonial crime, the recognition of this state crime."

The term "state crime" however does not appear in the text of the resolution, which was jointly drafted by Macron's party and the Elysee Palace. The subject remains highly sensitive both in France and Algeria.

The Paris police chief at the time, Papon, was in the 1980s revealed to have been a collaborator with the occupying Nazis in World War II and complicit in the deportation of Jews. He was convicted of crimes against humanity but later released.

'Bodies thrown into the Seine'

On the 60th anniversary of the bloodshed in 2021, Macron acknowledged that several dozen protesters had been killed, "their bodies thrown into the River Seine."

The precise number of victims has never been made clear and some activists fear several hundred could have been killed.

"Let us spare a thought here today for these victims and their families, who have been hit hard by the spiral of violence", Dominique Faure, the minister for local and regional authorities, said on Thursday.

She noted that efforts had been made in the past to recognize the massacre.

In 2012, then-president Francois Hollande paid "tribute to the victims" of a "bloody crackdown" on the men and women demonstrating for "the right to independence".

The rally was called in the final year of France's increasingly violent attempt to retain Algeria as a north African colony, and in the middle of a bombing campaign targeting mainland France by pro-independence militants.

File Photo: Algerians arrested during the peaceful demonstration organised in Paris on October 17, 1961 by the French Federation of the FLN (National Liberation Front) to protest against the curfew imposed on French Muslims, prepare to embark on board a plane bound for Algeria, on October 19, 1961. AFP

'Sincere reconciliation'

However, Faure expressed reservations about establishing a special day to commemorate the massacre, pointing out that three dates already existed to "commemorate what happened during the Algerian war".

"Much remains to be done to write this history, but in my opinion this is the only way to build a sincere and lasting reconciliation," she said.

"I think it is important to let history do the work before considering a new day of commemoration specifically for the victims of October 17, 1961."

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune is set to travel to France for a state visit, scheduled for late September or early October, according to the Elysee.

However, National Rally lawmaker Frank Giletti criticized "excessive repentance" based on "lies".

"By proposing this resolution, you are following in the footsteps of Emmanuel Macron, who has never stopped kneeling before the Algerian government, and who is working to mortify his own country through continuous repentance that has become unbearable", he said.

France has made several attempts over the years to heal the wounds with Algeria, but it refuses to "apologize or repent" for the 132 years of often brutal rule that ended in 1962 after a devastating eight-year war.

French historians say half a million civilians and combatants died during the war for independence, 400,000 of them Algerian. The Algerian authorities say 1.5 million were killed.

Search Keywords:
Short link: