[News] The French Role in the Use and Export of Torture

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jan 15 11:34:32 EST 2015

January 15, 2015

*We Must Denounce*

  The French Role in the Use and Export of Torture


As the world is reacting with justified condemnation to the tragic 
events in Paris, the same condemnation should be extended to 
industrialized countries that have resorted to violence and torture in 
their recent history. In addition, those countries not only have used 
these techniques themselves but have exported them to other countries.

France is a case in point. There is ample evidence of the widespread use 
of torture and assassination of political opponents during that 
country’s occupation of Algeria. Less well-known, however, is that 
French military officers trained the Argentine military in the 
psychological and physical torture of political prisoners in Argentina.

In December 2013 died in France French General Paul Aussaresses, who was 
responsible for executions and torture of prisoners during the Algerian 
war for independence. A French judge, Roger Le Loire, when investigating 
the disappearance of French citizens in Argentina during the last 
military regime, interrogated Gen. Paul Aussaresses about his knowledge 
of torture techniques provided by his soldiers to the Argentine military.

Aussaresses’ testimony helped draw a picture of the French military’s 
role in teaching torture to their Argentine colleagues. Aussaresses 
defended his use of torture during the Algerian War in the book “The 
Battle of the Casbah,” and argued for torture in the fight against 
al-Qaida. “I express regrets,” he said in a 2001 interview, “But I 
cannot express remorse. That implies guilt. I consider I did my 
difficult duty of a soldier implicated in a difficult mission.”
Aussaresses stated that the French government insisted that the French 
military in Algeria “liquidate the FLN (Front de Liberation Nationale) 
as quickly as possible.” Following the controversy fueled by his 
statements, he was stripped of his rank, the right to wear his uniform 
and his Légion d’honneur.

Aussaresses had close links with the Brazilian military. According to 
Gen. Manuel Contreras, former head of the Chilean DINA (Dirección 
Nacional de Inteligencia), Chilean officers were trained in Brazil by 
Aussaresses. He also advised South American militaries on battles 
against counterinsurgency and on the use of torture.

Lt. Col. Roger Trinquier was reportedly the architect of brutal 
repression in Algeria and the development of the concept of “modern 
war.” One of that concept’s basic tenets was the “secrecy doctrine,” 
which was to cause havoc in Argentina during the last military regime 
that ruled that country.

An important premise of that doctrine was the need to maintain strict 
secrecy with regard to the detention of political prisoners, as well as 
their death, and to ensure the elimination of all corpses. Many were 
dumped in the ocean; some later washed ashore on Argentine and Uruguayan 

The use of military personnel dressed as civilians, looking for 
political opponents to interrogate and torture, was a technique 
implemented by the French in Indochina and Algeria, and later exported 
to Argentina through French military advisers. In Argentina, these 
techniques led to the “disappearance” of some 30,000 political prisoners 
in the 1970s, almost all of whom are still unaccounted for.

The justification, according to French officials for this “assistance” 
is that it had been requested by the Argentine government. As Pierre 
Messmer, a former Gaullist prime minister, stated, “Argentina wanted the 
advisers so we gave them what they wanted. Argentina is an independent 
country and there was no reason for us to deny their request.” He was 
thus indicating that training in repression wasn’t the isolated decision 
of a few but a definite state policy.

If there is a moral to this sad story, it is that no country, no matter 
how technically advanced, is free of the dangers inherent in the use of 
brutal repressive techniques and their export. And it is the duty of 
informed citizens to denounce these vicious policies.

/*César Chelala* is a winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award 
and a national journalism award from Argentina. /
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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