France simplifies access to judicial archives of the Algerian war

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The advance is hailed by most historians working on the subject. An interministerial decree published Thursday 23 December to Official newspaper opens the French judicial archives ” Related “ with the Algerian War (1954-1962) fifteen years ahead of the legal calendar. While the Heritage Code in principle subjects these funds to a period of seventy-five years before their free communication – i.e. a deadline destined in this case to be spread between 2029 and 2037 -, they will henceforth be accessible without restriction by virtue of a so-called “general exemption” procedure. Are concerned “Judicial police investigations” and “ cases brought before the courts ”.

The Minister of Culture, Roselyne Bachelot, who has supervision over the national archives – apart from those of the ministries of the armed forces and of foreign affairs -, had already announced on December 10 such a gesture, expressly in line with the memorial process of Emmanuel Macron. The report by historian Benjamin Stora on the reconciliation of Franco-Algerian memories, submitted to the Head of State in January, recommended in particular better access to the archives of this period in order to“Move towards more truths”. While the impact on the tormented relationship between Algiers and Paris should be limited – the memorial dispute is only one piece of a tense strategic puzzle – the message aims to show public opinion on both sides of the world. Mediterranean that the French executive takes its responsibilities.

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The joint signing of the decree by the ministries of culture, the armed forces, foreign affairs, the interior and justice underlines the extent of the interministerial work which accompanied this opening measure. The involvement of the Ministry of the Armed Forces, primarily concerned with regard to the central role played at the time by military justice, can only give it more weight. “This is a step forward to celebrate”, considers historian Sylvie Thénault, specialist in the Algerian war.

The “general exemption” procedure, which allows categories of funds to be opened in advance of the legal communication deadlines (varying between twenty-five, fifty, seventy-five and one hundred years depending on the case), had already been used in multiple occasions for the period of the second world war. The Algerian war, on the other hand, had not benefited from the same solicitude in terms of opening the archives. “It is symbolically important to treat the Second World War and the Algerian War of Independence in an equivalent manner”, says Thénault.

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France simplifies access to judicial archives of the Algerian war