France to declassify Algerian War documents

President of France, Emmanuel Macron, has announced the relaxation of rules for the declassification of documents related to the Algerian War (1954-62) in a move to reconcile with its colonial past and improve relations with its former colony.

The war, which resulted in the independence of the North African nation had huge ramifications in both Algerian and French history, with several atrocities and war crimes being committed by both sides in a conflict that influences relations between the two countries to this day. 

The new measures speed up the process for researchers to access the documents. Previously, archives of the French state required a minimum of 50 years to be declassified unless they were deemed sensitive and could compromise someone’s security. The proposal is not limited to documents from the Algerian War but also extends to all state documents before 1970, which would include information about the Air France flight 1611. 

The idea to allow the public to access the documents from the controversial war in Algeria was suggested by the Algerian-born historian Benjamin Stora. The issue was also addressed by an open letter by French historians to the Le Monde newspaper. 

This move comes after a few weeks from Macron’s admission that Algerian independence fighter, Ali Boumendjel, had been tortured and killed by French troops in 1957. In 2018 Macron also adimitted of systematic use of torture by the French army during the conflict.

The legislation containing the changes is yet to be written and proposed to the government but it is widely expected to be passed by the end of summer 2021.

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Marco Rizzo

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September 2021
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