France: Anger over statue of soldier accused of torture in Algeria

France: Anger over statue of soldier accused of torture in Algeria

France’s relations with Algeria may hit a new time low over a statue of a colonial officer which threatens to open old wounds in Algeria.

French historians objected on March 16th as Toul, a commune in the north east of the country – plans to erect a statue for Colonel Marcel Bigeard, who was linked to torture in 1950s Algeria and Indochina, according to the Asharq Al – Awsat.

As Algeria and France strive to reconcile their colonial past, the move does not aim to foster a more positive relationship.

“How can we plan to erect a statue of paratrooper Marcel Bigeard, as is the case in Toul, and thus, glorify the practice of colonial torture?”, historians Fabrice Riceputi and Alain Ruscio raised queries in an article released on March 15th via the French website

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Bigeard, a World War II veteran, parachuted into Dien Bien Phu during the Vietnam conflict and endorsed torture in the unsuccessful  [for France]  Algerian nationalist struggle. He passed away in Toul, his birthplace, in 2010. Riceputi and Ruscio revealed that the French group “Histoire et Mémoire dans le Respect des Droits Humains” urged Toul municipality to halt plans for a statue honoring General Bigeard in the town square.

They mentioned that the Toul event coincides with “a time when Marseille and Paris had finally removed from public spaces the plaques honoring the memory of Marcel Bigeard, executioner of the Algerian people during the colonial conquest.”

To support their plea, Riceputi and Ruscio cited instances of torture linked to Bigeard during the “Battle of Algiers” in 1957, where French forces extensively employed torture to combat the National Liberation Front (FLN). Among the notable figures tortured by Bigeard was Larbi Ben M’hidi, who was executed for his refusal to collaborate with the military.

In 2021, Drifa Ben M’hidi, a veteran of the Algerian War and Larbi Ben M’hidi’s sister, disclosed to France 24 that General Marcel Bigeard, who had apprehended her brother in Algiers, confessed to her that “France had killed Larbi Ben M’hidi.”

During a meeting in the 1980s, he informed her that her brother did not die by suicide, contrary to the official French narrative, stating, “I didn’t kill him, but I sent him to General Paul Aussaresses.”

Drifa urged President Emmanuel Macron to acknowledge not only this assassination but also the atrocities committed against “the entire Algerian people.”

On March 4th, marking the 67th anniversary of Ben M’hidi’s death, 20 organizations in France petitioned the Elysée, demanding that “the French state acknowledge its responsibility for the practice of torture” during the Algerian revolution.

Asharq Al – Awsat


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