Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Between insurgents and government: the International Committee of the Red Cross's action in the Algerian War (1954–1962)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 June 2012

Abstract

The French government and an armed insurrectionary movement – the National Liberation Front (FLN) – confronted each other for over seven years in the Algerian War, which would become the archetype of wars of national liberation. It brought the new conditions of struggle in revolutionary warfare to a convulsive climax characterized by terrorist attacks, underground warfare, and repression. On the humanitarian front, the challenge of ensuring respect for humanitarian rules in asymmetric warfare was posed more bluntly than in any previous conflict. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) faced the triple challenge of offering its services to a government facing an armed insurgency that it claimed to be able to bring under control through police action alone, of entering into contact with a liberation movement, and of conducting a humanitarian action in the context of an insurrectionary war.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © International Committee of the Red Cross 2012

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.

References

1 For a more complete overview of the ICRC's activities during the Algerian war, see the following works: Perret, Françoise and Bugnion, François, De Budapest à Saigon: Histoire du Comité international de la Croix-Rouge, vol. IV, 1956–1965, ICRC and Georg Éditeur, Geneva, 2009, pp. 177221Google Scholar; Herrmann, Magali, Le CICR et la guerre d'Algérie: une guerre sans nom, des prisonniers sans statut (1954–1958), mémoire de licence de la Faculté des Lettres de l'Université de Genève, 2006Google Scholar.

2 Rey-Schyrr, Catherine, De Yalta à Dien Bien Phu: Histoire du Comité international de la Croix-Rouge, vol. III, 1945–1955, ICRC and Georg Éditeur, Geneva, 2007, pp. 421427 and 671676Google Scholar.

3 Commission of Experts for the Examination of the Question of Assistance to Political Detainees, Geneva, June 9–11, 1953, ICRC, Geneva, 1953; also published in Revue internationale de la Croix-Rouge, English supplement, Vol. VI, No. 7, July 1953, pp. 124–131, and in Annual Report 1953, pp. 66–68 and 84–91; C. Rey-Schyrr, De Yalta à Dien Bien Phu, above note 2, pp. 318–323.

4 ICRC Archives, A PV C1 Pl, Minutes of the Presidential Council, 25 November 1954, p. 3.

5 Ibid.

Ibid

6 Ibid. An honorary delegate of the ICRC is a Swiss citizen resident in a foreign country where, in general, he is employed by a Swiss company, and who has been asked by the ICRC to render various services: for example, contacting certain personalities, visiting prisoners, distribution of relief supplies, etc.

Ibid

7 Interview with Christian Michel, son of William Michel, by François Bugnion, 7 March 2008.

8 ICRC Archives, ‘Oral history: interview with Pierre Gaillard, May–July 1992’, transcription, pp. 99–100.

9 ICRC, Commission of Experts for the Examination of the Question of Assistance to Political Detainees, Geneva, June 9–11, 1953, ICRC, Geneva, 1953.

10 ICRC Archives, B AG 200 (3), Letter from the head of delegation of the ICRC in France, William Michel, to the Prime Minister, Pierre Mendès-France, 1 February 1955 (for an English version, see below, Appendix 1).

11 ICRC Archives, B AG 200 (3), Letter from Pierre Mendès-France to the head of the delegation of the ICRC in France, 2 February 1955 (for an English version, see below, Appendix 2).

12 ICRC Archives, A PV C1 Pl, ‘Troubles intérieurs, Aide-mémoire approuvé par la séance de Présidence du 16 décembre 1954’ [Internal strife, memorandum approved by the Presidential Council, 16 December 1954], annex to the minutes of the Presidential Council, 16 December 1954. ICRC Archives, B AG 012 004, ‘Troubles intérieurs’, 31 January1955.

13 ‘As a neutral institution whose humanitarian work is carried out particularly in time of war, civil war, or internal strife, it endeavours at all times to ensure the protection of and assistance to military and civilian victims of such conflicts and of their direct results’. Art. VI, para. 5, of the Statutes of the International Red Cross adopted by the Thirteenth International Conference of the Red Cross, The Hague, 1928, and amended by the Eighteenth International Conference meeting in Toronto, 1952: see Handbook of the International Red Cross, 10th edition, ICRC/League of Red Cross Societies, Geneva, 1953, pp. 305–311, ad loc. p. 308. The International Conference of the Red Cross brings together representatives of the National Societies of the Red Cross, of the ICRC, of the League of Red Cross Societies (today the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies), and of the states that are signatories to the Geneva Conventions. It is the highest deliberative authority of the Red Cross and, in principle, meets every four years.

14 Slama, Alain-Gérard, La guerre d'Algérie: histoire d'une déchirure, Gallimard, Paris, 1996, pp. 4849Google Scholar; Pierre Miquel, La guerre d'Algérie, Fayard, Paris, 1993, p. 153.

15 For the text of Common Article 3, see below.

16 For ICRC practice concerning visits to detention sites, see Bugnion, François, The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Protection of War Victims, ICRC, Geneva, and Macmillan Education, Oxford, 2003, pp. 9096, 176186, and 580657Google Scholar.

17 ICRC Archives, B AG 225 (12), Report on visits to detention centres in Morocco and Algeria by ICRC delegates (23 February–18 April 1955).

18 ICRC Archives, B AG 200 (3), Minutes of meeting between Prime Minister Edgar Faure's technical advisor and Roger Gallopin, Executive Director of the ICRC, 27 August 1955; ICRC Archives, B AG 200 (3), Minutes of meeting between Edgar Faure's technical advisor and William Michel, 2 September 1955; ICRC Archives, B AG 200 (3), ‘Le Comité international de la Croix-Rouge et les événements de l'Afrique du Nord’ (‘The ICRC and the events in North Africa’), January 1956 – Note No. 1, D. 425.

No. 1

19 ICRC Archives, B AG 200 (3), Note by Pierre Gaillard, 5 September 1955.

20 ICRC Archives, B AG 200 (3), Radiogram from David de Traz to the ICRC, 16 February 1956.

21 ICRC Archives, B AG 200 (3), Note by William Michel, 16 February 1956.

22 ICRC Archives, B AG 200 (12), Letter from the Algerian delegation in Cairo to David de Traz, 23 February 1956.

23 ICRC Archives, A PV C1 Pl, Minutes of Presidential Council, 29 March 1956.

24 ICRC Archives, B AG 251 (12), Letter from Prime Minister Guy Mollet to the ICRC, 6 April 1956.

25 ICRC Archives, B AG 251 (12), Mission of the ICRC in Algeria – May–June 1956 – Report presented to Prime Minister Guy Mollet; ICRC Archives, B AG 251 (12), Note by Pierre Boissier, ICRC delegate in France, to the ICRC, 26 June 1956; Revue internationale de la Croix-Rouge, No. 452, August 1956, pp. 441–442; Communique of the Prime Minister, 23 June 1958, quoted in Siotis, Jean, Le Droit de la guerre et les conflits armés d'un caractère non-international, Librairie générale de Droit et de Jurisprudence, Paris, 1958, p. 211Google Scholar; interviews with Pierre Gaillard by Françoise Perret, January–February 1992.

26 ICRC Archives, B AG 251 (12), Letter from Roger Gallopin to David de Traz, 10 April 1956.

27 ICRC Archives, B AG 251 (12), Letter from David de Traz to Mohamed Khider, 24 April 1956.

28 ICRC Archives, B AG 251 (12), Letter from Edmond Müller (delegate in Cairo) to the ICRC, 7 June 1956.

29 ICRC Archives, B AG 200 (12), Note by Jean-Pierre Maunoir, 3 October 1956.

30 ICRC Archives, B AG 251 (12), Notes by Edmond Müller to the ICRC, 10 and 17 October 1956.

31 ICRC Archives, B AG 210 (12–51), Minutes of meeting between Pierre Boissier and Ahmed Ben Bella, 11 December 1956; ICRC Archives B AG 200 (12), ‘Le CICR et les événements d'Afrique du Nord – Résumé chronologique’ (‘The ICRC and the events in North Africa – chronological summary’), 27 June 1957.

32 See Appendix 3 below for the complete text of General Salan's directive of 19 March 1958.

33 ICRC Archives, B AG 225 (12), Army High Command, 10th Military Region, Note of 19 March 1958, reproduced in: The ICRC and the Algerian conflict, ICRC, Geneva, 1962, p. 7. In a subsequent directive dated 23 March 1958, General Salan corrected the terminology of the directive of 19 March 1958, substituting the expression ‘camps militaires d'internés’ (‘military camps for internees’) for the expression ‘camps d'internés militaires’ (‘camps for military internees’). This terminological clarification reflected the concerns of the French authorities and of the High Command to avoid any expression that could be interpreted as conferring the status of prisoners of war on fighters captured while bearing arms openly.

34 ICRC, Annual Report 1956, pp. 43–44; ICRC, Annual Report 1958, pp. 7–9. Revue internationale de la Croix-Rouge, No. 464, August 1957, pp. 438–439; No. 471, March 1958, p. 153; No. 476, August 1958, pp. 405–408; No. 481, January 1959, pp. 24–25; No. 482, February 1959, pp. 68–70.

35 According to the Statutes of the International Red Cross, approved at the Eighteenth International Conference of the Red Cross held in Toronto in 1952, the ICRC has in particular the responsibility of recognizing any newly created or reconstituted National Society fulfilling the conditions for recognition currently in force. The first of these conditions, fixed at the Seventeenth International Conference of the Red Cross held in Stockholm in August 1948, stipulates that a society that is a candidate for admission must have been founded in the territory of an independent state that is a signatory of the Geneva Conventions (Seventeenth International Conference of the Red Cross, Stockholm, 20–30 August 1948, Report, Swedish Red Cross Society, Stockholm, 1948, p. 89). The ICRC is bound by the conditions adopted by the International Conference; its role is like that of a notary who ensures that the conditions have been truly fulfilled. However, the ICRC is ready to collaborate on a pragmatic basis with any Red Cross or Red Crescent Society that respects the Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, whether or not the Society has been formally recognized. Concerning the work of the Algerian Red Crescent during the Algerian War, see Farouk Benatia, Les actions humanitaires pendant la lutte de libération (1954–1962), Éditions Dahlab, Algiers, n.d.

36 ICRC Archives, B AG 251 (126), Mission report of David de Traz, 25 October 1956; ICRC Archives, B AG 122 (12), Letter from ICRC to Omar Boukli Hacène, 29 April 1957; ICRC Archives, B AG 200 (12), Note of David de Traz, 30 July 1957.

37 ICRC Archives, B AG 200 (12) ‘Le CICR et les événements d'Afrique du Nord’, above note 31; ICRC Archives, B AG 200 (12), Note by Claude Pilloud, 23 May 1957.

note 31

38 Revue internationale de la Croix-Rouge, No. 468, October 1957, pp. 551–553.

39 Resolution XI, Nineteenth International Conference of the Red Cross, New Delhi, October–November 1957, Report, Indian Red Cross, New Delhi, 1958, p. 153.

40 Today, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

41 ICRC, ‘Appeal from the International Red Cross: International aid to Algerian refugees’, Press release No. 634b (joint communiqué of the ICRC and the League), 12 December 1957.

42 ICRC Archives, A PV A Pl, Minutes of the Committee, Plenary Sessions, 13 February, 6 March, and 1 May 1958, and 3 June 1959. ICRC, Annual Report 1957, pp. 27–33; ICRC, Annual Report 1958, pp. 10–12. Revue internationale de la Croix-Rouge, No. 470, February 1958, pp. 85–86; No. 471, March 1958, pp. 141–142; No. 473, May 1958, pp. 278–280; No. 476, August 1958, pp. 410–412; No. 482, February 1959, pp. 70–73; No. 486, June 1959, pp. 308–309; No. 494, February 1960, pp. 89–90.

43 Revue internationale de la Croix-Rouge, No. 476, August 1958, p. 409.

44 ICRC, ‘Two delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross see the four prisoners of Sakhiet’, Press Release No. 636b, 3 February 1958.

45 ICRC Archives, A PV C1 Pl, Minutes of the Presidential Council, 23 January 1958, pp. 3–4; 30 January 1958, pp. 2–3; dossier 210 (12–15).

46 ICRC, ‘The ICRC receives a first list of French combatants captured by the FLN’, Press Release No. 641b, 20 March 1958.

47 ICRC Archives, A PV C1 Pl, Minutes of the Presidential Council, 23 January 1958. ICRC, Annual Report 1958, pp. 9–10. Revue internationale de la Croix-Rouge, No. 470, February 1958, pp. 84–85; No. 472, April 1958, p. 192; No. 476, August 1958, pp. 408–409; No. 479, November 1958, pp. 617–618; No. 481, January 1959, pp. 24–25; No. 482, February 1959, pp. 70–71. See also F. Bugnion, above note 16, p. 451.

note 16

48 ICRC Archives, B AG 202 (12), Note from the ICRC to the French Government, 4 June 1957.

49 ICRC Archives, B AG 202 (12), Letter from the Syrian Red Crescent to the League, 22 July 1957; Letter from the Jordanian Red Crescent to the League, 14 August 1957.

50 ICRC Archives, B AG 202 (12), Letter from the ICRC to the French Red Cross, 22 August 1957; Letters from the French Red Cross to the ICRC, 6 and 19 September 1957.

51 Resolution XVII, Nineteenth International Conference of the Red Cross, New Delhi, October–November 1957, Report, pp. 154–155.

52 ICRC Archives, A PV C1 Pl, Minutes of the Presidential Council, 23 October 1958; ICRC; Annual Report 1958, p. 9; F. Bugnion, above note 16, p. 479.

note 16

53 ICRC Archives, A PV A Pl, Minutes of the Committee, plenary session, 4 June 1958.

54 ICRC Archives, B AG 225 (12), Memorandum of the ICRC, 28 May 1958 (for an English version, see below, Appendix 4).

55 ICRC Archives, B AG 200 (12), Letter from the ICRC to the French Government, 18 June 1958.

56 Bedjaoui, Mohammed, La Révolution algérienne et le droit, Éditions de l'Association des Juristes démocrates, Brussels, 1961, p. 216Google Scholar.

57 ICRC Archives, A PV C1 Pl, Minutes of the meeting of the Presidential Council, 27 August 1959; ICRC Archives, B AG 200 (12), Letter from Léopold Boissier to Ferhat Abbas, 4 December 1959; ICRC Archives, B AG 200 (12), Minutes of meeting between Pierre Gaillard, the Minister of Health of the GPRA, and Doctor Ben Tami, representative of the Algerian Red Crescent in Geneva, 22 November 1960. ICRC, Annual Report 1959, pp. 10–12; ICRC, Annual Report 1960, pp. 17–18; ICRC, Annual Report 1961, p. 20. Revue internationale de la Croix-Rouge, No. 495, March 1960, pp. 122–123; No. 518, February 1962, pp. 71–72. Interviews between Pierre Gaillard and Françoise Perret, June to September 1992.

58 ICRC, ‘The ICRC visits places of detention in Algeria and France’, Press Release No. 688b, 16 October 1959; ICRC, ‘The seventh mission of the ICRC in Algeria’, Press Release No. 692b, 7 December 1959.

59 Le Monde, 5 January 1960, pp. 1 and 3. Libération had also received a copy of the ICRC report but issue number 5 of 5 January 1960 had been seized ‘because of the commentary which accompanied the analysis of the ICRC reports’ (Le Monde, 6 January 1960).

60 A.-G. Slama, above note 14, pp. 68 and 148–149.

note 14

61 Henri Alleg, La question, with afterword ‘Une victoire’ by Jean-Paul Sartre, La Cité, Lausanne, 1958. The same editor from Lausanne would publish in 1959, under the title La gangrène, a collection of accounts by Algerian victims of torture.

62 Camus, Albert, Actuelles III: Chronique algérienne, Gallimard, Paris, 1958, pp. 1516Google Scholar; Œuvres complètes, Gallimard (Bibliothèque de la Pléiade), Paris, 2008, vol. IV, p. 299.

63 According to the testimony of the historian Pierre Vidal-Naquet, the origin of the leak was Gaston Gosselin, who was then a close collaborator of the Minister of Justice Edmond Michelet: ‘At the Ministry of Justice, which was occupied by Edmond Michelet from January 1959 to August 1961, there was a small group formed by two of the Minister's former fellow-deportees [at Dachau], Gaston Gosselin and Joseph Rovan. Both of them were resolutely hostile to the current practice in Algeria. While Rovan acted in a discrete manner, Gosselin did not hesitate at provoking scandals, for example, by transmitting to a journalist, Pierre Viansson-Ponté, the report on Algeria by the ICRC. This document was published in Le Monde, 5 January 1960.’ Pierre Vidal-Naquet, La raison d’État, La Découverte, Paris, 2002, p. 6.

64 ICRC, ‘Information concerning visits to places of detention by the delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross’, Press Release No. 694b, 8 January 1960. ICRC Archives, A PV A Pl, Minutes of the Committee, plenary session, 9 January 1960. ICRC, Annual Report 1959, pp. 8–10; ICRC, Annual Report 1960, pp. 16–17. Revue internationale de la Croix-Rouge, No. 841, July 1959, p. 341; No. 493, January 1960, p. 18; No. 494, February 1960, pp. 87–89; English supplement, Vol. XIII, No. 2, February 1960, pp. 32–34.

65 ICRC, Annual Report 1961, pp. 17–19; ICRC, Annual Report 1962, pp. 8–9. Revue internationale de la Croix-Rouge, No. 508, April 1961, pp. 202–203; No. 516, December 1961, pp. 605–606; No. 517, January 1962, pp. 29–30; No. 519, March 1962, pp. 130–131.

66 ICRC, Annual Reports, from 1955 to 1962; ICRC, The ICRC and the Algerian conflict, above note 33; F. Bugnion, above note 16, pp. 632–633.

note 33
note 16

67 ICRC Archives, B AG 200 (12), Report on the mission of Dr. de Chastonay, 8 June 1962. ICRC, Annual Report 1962, pp. 10–11. Revue internationale de la Croix-Rouge, No. 520, April 1962, p. 177; No. 522, June 1962, pp. 294–295; No. 523, July 1962, pp. 330–332.

68 ‘Accord sur le cessez-le-feu en Algérie, signé à Évian le 18 mars 1962’ (‘Cease-fire agreements in Algeria, signed at Evian, 18 March 1962’), in Revue générale de Droit international public, 66e année, vol. 3, tome XXXIII, July–September 1962, pp. 686–692. See also Keesing's Contemporary Archives, 9–16 June 1962, p. 18801.

69 ICRC, Annual Report 1962, p. 9. Revue internationale de la Croix-Rouge, No. 520, April 1962, p. 176.

70 ICRC, Annual Report 1962, p. 10. Revue internationale de la Croix-Rouge, No. 521, May 1962, p. 244; No. 522, June 1962, p. 289.

71 ICRC Archives, B AG 251 (12), Letter from Léopold Boissier, President of the ICRC, to Jean de Broglie, State Secretary in Charge of Algerian Affairs, 22 March 1963. ICRC, Annual Report 1963, pp. 9–11. Revue internationale de la Croix-Rouge, No. 531, March 1963, p. 138.

72 ICRC Archives, B AG 251 (12), Letters from Léopold Boissier, President of the ICRC, to Jean de Broglie, 5 April and 20 May 1963; ICRC Archives, B AG 251 (12), Report of the mission of Samuel Gonard, 28 June 1963; ICRC Archives, B AG 251 (12), Note of Roger Gallopin, Executive Director of the ICRC, to Georg Hoffmann, head of the ICRC special mission to Algeria, 1 July 1963. ICRC, Annual Report 1963, pp. 9–11. Revue internationale de la Croix-Rouge, No. 532, April 1963, pp. 178–179.

73 Interviews with Pierre Gaillard by Françoise Perret, January–February 1992.

74 ICRC Archives, B AG 200 (3), Letter from the head of the ICRC delegation in France, William Michel, to the Prime Minister, Pierre Mendès-France, 1 February 1955 (ICRC translation).

75 ICRC Archives, B AG 200 (3), Letter from Pierre Mendès-France to the head of the ICRC delegation in France, 2 February 1955 (ICRC translation).

76 ICRC Archives, B AG 225 (12), Army High Command, 10th Military Region, Note of 19 March 1958 (ICRC translation).

77 ICRC Archives, B AG 225 (12), Memorandum of the ICRC, 28 May 1958 (ICRC translation).

Full text views

Full text views reflects PDF downloads, PDFs sent to Google Drive, Dropbox and Kindle and HTML full text views.

Total number of HTML views: 5
Total number of PDF views: 141 *
View data table for this chart

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd January 2021. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Hostname: page-component-76cb886bbf-gtgjg Total loading time: 0.341 Render date: 2021-01-23T09:23:38.925Z Query parameters: { "hasAccess": "0", "openAccess": "0", "isLogged": "0", "lang": "en" } Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": false, "newCiteModal": false }

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Between insurgents and government: the International Committee of the Red Cross's action in the Algerian War (1954–1962)
Available formats
×

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Between insurgents and government: the International Committee of the Red Cross's action in the Algerian War (1954–1962)
Available formats
×

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Between insurgents and government: the International Committee of the Red Cross's action in the Algerian War (1954–1962)
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response


Your details


Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *