The Politics of Torture

The Politics of Torture

Most liberal-democratic states took a long time to appreciate the juridical inventiveness of both the Third Reich and the Soviet Union. Once they had perceived, among other things, the reappearance and justification of torture, their first response was to dismiss it as an aberration of psychotic or degenerate governments, lacking popular support, and in clear violation of all universally recognized principles of justice and public law. In 1957 and 1958, however, slowly and hesitantly at first, rumor, then news began to circulate in France that the French army and colonial police forces had begun to use torture in dealing with Algerian rebels, at least since the launching of the Algerian revolt in 1954. After 1957 the news became a flood that eventually contributed substantially to the demise of the Fourth Republic, the creation of the Fifth Republic, and the independence of Algeria in 1962. Nothing in French law had changed, the French army had been given no extraordinary powers, and the French public, if anything, prided itself upon the humaneness of its institutions, even in the colonies, especially in the light of France’s own experience under German occupation and the Vichy government that had occurred so recently.

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Lima