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French General Fined Over Algeria Memoir Revelations - 2002-01-25

A Paris tribunal fined a retired French general and his two editors Friday for publishing an unapologetic memoir that describes the general's brutal behavior during Algeria's war of independence. All three men plan to appeal the tribunal's verdict.

Retired General Paul Aussaresses was fined $6,600 by a Paris correctional tribunal for so-called "complicity in justifying war-crimes."

The verdict related to Mr. Aussaresses' memoirs, Special Services, Algeria 1955 (to) -1957, published last spring. In the book, the retired French general, who is now 83, admits to having presided over tortures and summary executions of Algerian prisoners.

Mr. Aussaresses' two editors were each fined a little over $13,000 dollars for publishing the book. Like Mr. Aussaresses, they say they will appeal the sentence. They argue the book is an important testament of history.

But Jean-Pierre Dubois, vice-president of the Paris-based Human Rights League - one of the plaintiffs in the case - hailed the court's decision. Mr. Dubois said the verdict was important because it judged Mr. Aussaresses not just on what he wrote and said, but on his conduct during the years he served in Algeria. As a result, Mr. Dubois said, the court's judgment implicitly acknowledges that the French military committed war crimes during the conflict, which lasted from 1954 to 1962.

Mr. Aussaresses' book offers a stark account of tortures and summary executions he and other French officers ordered to "liquidate" Algerian independence fighters. In interviews since his book's publication, Mr. Aussaresses has remained largely unapologetic for his actions, arguing he was merely doing his job.

Last spring, the French government expelled Mr. Aussaresses from the military reserve, a largely symbolic act. Lawmakers have also considered creating a national day in remembrance of Algerian war victims. But Paris has yet to formally apologize for its wartime conduct, despite demands to do so by Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.