France official warns against 'permanent repentance' for Algeria colonial crimes

[JURIST] French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy [official profile] warned Monday against apologizing for crimes committed during France's colonization of Algeria. His comments came in response to remarks made Sunday by prominent a French Socialist Party (PS) [official website] leader who called on France to recognize its crimes [JURIST report] in colonial Algeria [JURIST news archives], including the alleged massacres of 45,000 Algerians demanding independence at the end of World War II. Speaking at a conference in Algiers on Sunday, Jack Lang [Wikipedia profile], a special advisor to PS presidential nominee Segolene Royal [BBC profile], emphasized that recognition through such acts as revising school textbooks to more accurately reflect the colony's history are ultimately more valuable than an official apology. While Douste-Blazy warned against a "permanent repentance," he did endorse a growth of French investment in Algeria.

France ruled the North African country for more than 130 years. After eight years of conflict costing 1.5 million lives during the Algerian War of Independence [backgrounder], France relinquished control of Algeria in 1962 and the two countries have since worked on improving relations. Algeria first called for a French apology [JURIST report] in 2005, after France strained ties by approving a law [text in French; Guardian report] requiring French history teachers to stress the "positive role of the French presence overseas, especially in North Africa." The law was later rejected by French President Jacques Chirac [BBC profile], but not before delaying a reconciliation treaty. More recently Turkish lawmakers objecting to French legislation that would make it illegal to deny that Turkish killings of Armenians during World War I was genocide have threatened to adopt a retaliatory measure [JURIST report] that would label the French killings of Algerians as genocide and make it illegal to deny that the French were responsible for the killings. Last November Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika [BBC profile] called for France to apologize for and to acknowledge [JURIST report] its colonial crimes. AP has more.



 

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