France acknowledges murder of activist during Algerian War

Algeria – Acknowledgement by France of the murder of Ali Boumendjel – Communiqué issued by the Presidency of the Republic

Paris, 2 March 2021

On 20 January, in accordance with the task the French President had entrusted to him, Benjamin Stora submitted his report on the memories of Algeria’s colonization and the Algerian War. Among its recommendations was that France should acknowledge the murder of Ali Boumendjel, a lawyer and political leader of Algerian nationalism.

Ali Boumendjel was born on 23 May 1919 in Relizane, in a highly talented family steeped in travel, culture and political struggles. From his father, a primary school teacher, he inherited a taste for knowledge. The brilliant schoolboy had no trouble finding his way onto the Law Faculty of Algiers. Endowed with an open, generous, humanist culture drawing on Enlightenment sources, Ali Boumendjel soon became involved in politics, opposing the injustice of the colonial system and supporting Algerian independence. The speech he delivered to the World [Peace] Congress in Helsinki in 1955 testified to his commitment to peace.

In the midst of the Battle of Algiers, he was arrested by the French army, held incommunicado, tortured, then murdered on 23 March 1957. Paul Aussaresses himself admitted ordering one of his subordinates to kill him and disguise the crime as suicide.

Ali Boumendjel passed on an important political legacy. His struggles and his courage left an indelible mark on Algerian and French minds, including that of René Capitant, who had been his teacher.

Ali Boumendjel left behind his wife, Malika, and his four children, then aged between 20 months and seven years: Nadir, Sami, Farid and Dalila. Malika Boumendjel passed away a short time ago; she would have been 102 today. She had made it her life’s work to discover the truth about the circumstances behind the deaths of her husband, her father Belkacem Amrani, her brother André Amrani and their friend Selhi Mohand, all of whom disappeared in 1957. She wanted the truth to be known and acknowledged by everyone, for the sake of her family, history, Algeria, and France, where some of her children and grandchildren were building their lives.

Today, the President received four of Ali Boumendjel’s grandchildren at the Elysée Palace to tell them, on France’s behalf, what Malika Boumendjel would have wanted to hear: Ali Boumendjel did not commit suicide. He was tortured, then murdered.

He also told them he wanted to continue the work begun several years ago to collect testimonies and encourage the work of historians by opening up archives so that all the families of those who went missing, on both sides of the Mediterranean, could be given the means to discover the truth. This work will be extended and deepened over the coming months so that we can move towards healing and reconciliation.

Looking history in the face and acknowledging the truth of the facts will not enable us to close what are still open wounds, but will help us find a path for the future.

Ali Boumendjel’s grandchildren’s generation must be able to build their future, far from the pitfalls of amnesia and resentment. It is for their sake now, for the sake of young French and Algerian people, that we must move forward on the path of truth, the only one which can lead to a reconciliation of memories.

It was in this spirit that the President wished to make this gesture of acknowledgement, which is not a one-off.

No crime, no atrocity committed by anyone during the Algerian War can be excused or covered up. They must be examined with courage and clear-sightedness, with absolute respect for all those whose lives they tore apart and whose destinies they shattered./.

Published on 04/03/2021

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