At last the truth about France's use of torture in Algeria

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French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday issued a landmark statement officially recognising for the first time the systematic use of torture by French forces during the 1954-1962 Algerian war of independence. The admission was made alongside a letter presented to the widow of Maurice Audin, a 25-year-old mathematician and militant for Algerian independence who disappeared after his arrest by the French military in 1957, and who Macron acknowledged had died after he was tortured in detention. Mediapart publishing editor Edwy Plenel sets out here why the move is as historically significant as the recognition in 1995 by then president Jacques Chirac of the responsibility of France in the deportation of Jews to German death camps during WWII, and why it may herald a reconciliation of sorts after six decades of denial.               

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Two French presidents, both from the Right albeit to a greater and lesser degree, have succeeded in stating what their leftwing predecessors did not know how to express. After Jacques Chirac, who in 1995 unlocked official French memory of German occupation in WWII and collaboration with the Nazi regime, Emmanuel Macron has now unlocked the cupboard containing the hurt and the secrets of the Algerian war of independence.