Former socialist president François Mitterrand, under whom the death penalty was eventually abolished in France, ordered the execution of 45 Algerian prisoners when he was justice minister during the 1954-1962 Algerian independence war. This and other little-known facts about Mitterrand's ruthless stance against Algerian nationalists, when he was justice minister between February 1956 and May 1957, were detailed in a documentary screened on French television on November 4th.
'François Mitterrand et la guerre d'Algérie' (François Mitterrand and the Algerian War) is based on a book by the same name co-authored by journalist François Malye and historian Benjamin Stora, who spoke to Mediapart in a detailed interview published further below here.
Another witness, from the civil service, is Jean-Claude Périer, who in 1956 was secretary of the French High Council of the Magistrature (CSM), on which he also subsequently served as a representative of the Council of State during François Mitterrand's two seven-year terms as president of France (1981-1995). "President Mitterrand was, to my mind, a real statesman, who strove to rise to his function, even if his calling was more aesthetic than moral," Périer, now 88, told Mediapart. "However, at the time of his ministerial career under the 4th Republic, he had a terrifying ambition that was utterly uncurbed. He wasn't a combatant, he was a partisan."