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Disgraced French general and Algeria torturer dies

© AFP

Text by Tony TODD

Latest update : 2013-12-05

Former French General Paul Aussaresses, convicted in 2003 for defending the act of torture after admitting his role at the head of a “death squad” during the Algerian War, has died aged 95.

Disgraced former French general Paul Aussaresses, who was stripped of his rank in 2003 for confessing and defending the use of torture during the Algerian War, has died aged 95, according to a veterans’ association.

Aussaresses, head of military intelligence in Algiers in 1957, admitted in an interview with French daily Le Monde in 2000 that he had “no remorse and no regrets” for the acts of torture he had carried out.

"Once you have seen with your own eyes as I did, civilians, men, women, and children quartered, disembowelled and nailed to doors [by the rebels], you are changed for life,” he said. “What feelings can anyone have towards those who perpetrated such barbaric acts and their accomplices?"

In 2001 Aussaresses published his memoir “The Battle of the Casbah: Terrorism and Counterterrorism in Algeria 1955-1957”, in which he wrote that the French government had “ignored, if not openly recommended” the use of torture.

The book, and subsequent unrepentant press interviews, led to then-French President Jacques Chirac stripping Aussaresses of his Légion d’Honneur, as well as his rank as general and his right to wear the French uniform.

In April 2003 he was condemned for defending the use of torture and war crimes and subsequently fined 7,500 euros. Aussaresses remained defiant and stated that his conviction was an act of state hypocrisy.

Head of a ‘death squad’

Born on November 7, 1918, Aussaresses volunteered for the Free French special services during the Second World War and was parachuted into France to work with the Resistance behind Nazi lines.

After the war he helped form the 11th Shock Batallion, the armed wing of the French counter-espionage agency the SDECE (which would later become the DGSE, France’s overseas intelligence agency).

He later served in the First Indochina War as head of a parachute battalion.

In 1957, General Jacques Massu, commander of the French 11th Parachute Division in Algeria, ordered Aussaresses to Algiers where, in his own words, he found himself leading a “death squad” responsible for night-time arrests, torture and the elimination of terrorists.

In the 1960s, Aussaresses lectured the USA Special Forces “Green Berets” at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in the “techniques of the Battle of Algiers” including the use of torture.

Many of those techniques would be used by his pupils in counterinsurgency operations during the Vietnam War.

‘Teaching torture’ in Latin America

In 1973, Aussaresses was sent to Brazil during the military dictatorship as French military attaché.

“During his career Aussaresses not only practiced torture, but also taught the techniques of torture in clandestine programmes with Latin American dictatorships in the 1970s,” French rights group Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT) said in a statement.

“Right up to the end he justified the use of torture and summary executions as the only ways to fight terrorism, although these are clearly war crimes. Contrary to what Aussaresses maintained, the justification for torture on security grounds is merely a pretext to justify the act of torture itself. It is not an efficient response to terrorism.”

Date created : 2013-12-04

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