How we found a lost French army torture farm hidden in Algiers

By Malika Rahal and Fabrice Riceputi

French historians Malika Rahal and Fabrice Riceputi are specialised in researching the events of the 1954-1962 Algerian war of independence, and notably the kidnaps, detention, torture and disappearances of pro-independence militants at the hands of the French army. They lead a project to trace the fate of thousands of people who disappeared during the 1957 Battle of Algiers, when France’s military led a bloody, months-long campaign to dislodge independence fighters and sympathisers in the French colony’s capital. When in Algiers late last year to continue their research, the historians made the chance and revealing discovery of the site of a former colonial farm used by the military to torture and kill detainees. This is their story.

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We had been working in Algiers for 15 days, carrying out research for the project Mille autres — Des Maurice Audin par milliers on the series of disappearances of men and women kidnapped by the French army in Algiers in 1957 [during the 1954-1962 Algerian war of independence]. One of the aims of the research was to locate sites which sources had indicated were used for the detention and torture of those who disappeared.