The Colonial Testing Ground: The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Violent End of Empire

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In a memorandum issued in October 1962, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) expressed its great concern that torture and other excessive acts of violence were becoming more prevalent worldwide despite the expanded application of international humanitarian law to internal conflicts by way of Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions.1Authorities in Geneva were particularly troubled by the trend that, due to a new “fight against terrorism,” torture was depicted as being in the best interest of society and in accord with the law. Under the guise of special laws on combating terrorism, methods of “interrogation under torture,” which had been universally outlawed by civilized society, were now being reinstated more or less secretly. In the opinion of the ICRC, the widespread strategy of fighting terrorism by its own means was not only an unequivocal violation of international law but also a “devastating abdication of humanity.”2

The main reason for this alarming evaluation of the situation lay in the numerous incidents that the ICRC had experienced during its missions in the wars of decolonization. Following the end of World War II, many violent uprisings shook European colonial empires. Because these conflicts between a European colonial power and an anticolonial rebellion movement were not considered international conflicts according to the definition of international law, the ICRC attempted, especially in the Mau Mau War in Kenya (1952–56) and the Algerian War (1954–62), to push through minimum humanitarian norms on the basis of the new provisions of the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

The “wars of national liberation” in the 1950s and 1960s posed new challenges to the International Committee in Geneva, because the humanitarian objective was repeatedly overlaid and endangered by realpolitik. On one side, the colonial powers feared unwelcome intervention in their colonial interests and therefore fought any expansion of international humanitarian law and the ICRC work in this area. On the other, liberation movements like the Algerian Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) instrumentalized the revised international humanitarian law for purposes of propaganda in their struggle to win public opinion. The Geneva Conventions were increasingly bounced back and forth in the tough political confrontations of decolonization, so that the original issue of securing minimum humanitarian protections in wartime threatened to pale or even perish in the skirmishes.

It is against this backdrop that this essay uses the case studies of Kenya and Algeria to examine the role of the International Red Cross in the process of violent decolonization. In the course of its attempt to develop an international humanitarian regime, two key questions arose for the ICRC. First, to what degree could the norms of the 1949 Geneva Conventions withstand the realities of colonial war? Second, how much influence could international organizations like the ICRC exert in these violent scenarios? Appealing to evidence mostly made available only recently by the archives of the International Red Cross in Geneva, I argue that the wars of decolonization became the first serious testing grounds for the revisions to international humanitarian law and had an impact on its future development.3


The New Geneva Conventions of 1949

World War II and the immediate postwar period represented a major turning point for the protection of international human rights. The massive violations of humanitarian norms during the war had shown the world community in an all too drastic way just how great the need was for codified universal basic rights. Thus, human rights were to be institutionalized as a legacy of the war within the postwar order. With the founding of the United Nations in 1945 and the passage of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and the European Convention on Human Rights in 1950, the cornerstones were laid for the international human rights regime, a topic that began to assert its permanent place on the political agenda for the entire world.4

In conjunction with these precedent-setting documents, the Geneva Conventions of 1949 are also a good example of this brief dawn in the history of international human rights protection.5 As the traditional guardian of international humanitarian law, the ICRC thus assumed a leading role as an international actor in this process.6 On February 15, 1945, even as the war still raged, the president of the ICRC, Max Huber, appealed in a letter to the governments of the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, France, and China, as well as to the national committees of the Red Cross, to support the revision of international humanitarian law.7 The stated objective of the ICRC initiative was to eliminate the weaknesses of “Hague Law” that had become evident in World War II and to create more robust protection of fundamental rights in wartime. In the four years that followed, various bodies of experts worked on a draft to revise international humanitarian law that was accepted at the Seventeenth International Red Cross Conference in Stockholm in 1948 and finally ratified as the Geneva Conventions by fifty-nine states on August 12, 1949, at the Diplomatic Conference for the Establishment of International Conventions for the Protection of Victims of the War.8

The new conventions contained a series of substantial revisions, such as the first codified definition of the term “war crimes” and the elaboration on the status of war prisoners.9However, special emphasis was placed on the importance of protecting civilians in wartime, which was guaranteed by the four conventions, and the expansion of international humanitarian law to noninternational, armed conflicts. Revolutionary was the agreement reached in Common Article 3, which was also included in all four conventions and dubbed the “Convention in miniature.”10 It guaranteed minimum standards of humanitarian protection in internal conflicts that neither governments nor rebellion movements could ignore without banishing themselves from the realm of civilization.11 Even in internal conflicts, civilians, members of the armed forces, and combatants no longer fighting due to illness, wounds, detention, or any other cause were protected under the Geneva Conventions. According to Article 3, this group of people were to be treated humanely and equally in all circumstances. For this reason, “violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilations, cruel treatment and torture, taking hostage, outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, the passing of sentences and carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized people,” were prohibited everywhere and at all times.12 Moreover, paragraph 2 of the article stipulated that humanitarian organizations like the ICRC could offer their services to the warring parties. This provision was meant to protect the relief efforts of humanitarian organizations from being seen as hostile acts of intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.

On the one hand, the recognition of these minimum humanitarian standards in internal conflicts meant a radical breakthrough for international humanitarian law; yet on the other, the idea was quite controversial and met with strong resistance during the drafting phase.13Great Britain, the leading colonial power, categorically opposed the adoption of the provision to extend international humanitarian law to armed internal conflict of any kind, because it feared international intervention in connection with colonial unrest.14 Several passages of the Geneva Convention drafts, such as the prohibition of “collective punishment,” gave the British Colonial Office especially big headaches since this and other prohibited measures were common and efficient instruments used by the colonial governments to squelch unrest. The burning down of entire villages in Malaya and the punitive bombardments in the Protectorate of Aden illustrated, in the eyes of the Colonial Office, the value of collective punishment measures, and the authorities fought resolutely to prevent such effective means from being taken away from the local security forces.15

The French delegation submitted a proposal to apply not all Article 3 norms to “internal conflicts” but only the minimum ones, and it was this proposal that ended the heated debate at the 1949 conference and brought about the decisive breakthrough resulting in the signing of the four Geneva Conventions.16 The French proposal had not been prompted by a heartfelt commitment to the humanitarian protection of the colonial population during internal unrest, because the French had also opposed the passage pertaining to “colonial conflicts” in the conventions. The French were motivated by their very recent experience with German occupation and the denial of combatant status to resistance fighters; their effort here was thus aimed at ensuring protection of the country’s own population in future wars.17

One of the main reasons why the colonial powers resisted the idea of extending international humanitarian law completely to colonial conflicts lay in the militarily heated situations in their overseas possessions. After 1945, the colonial metropoles found that their recolonization efforts were being increasingly fought by anticolonial national movements, with such resistance developing into outright wars of decolonization in Indochina, Indonesia, Malaya, Kenya, Algeria, and Cyprus.18 The most incisive of these were the Mau Mau War in the British East African Crown colony of Kenya and France’s Algerian War. In Kenya, Great Britain was faced with the violent resistance of the Land Freedom Army, whose major supporters were ethnic Kikuyu. The organization, whose name the British shortened to Mau Mau, succeeded in embroiling Great Britain in a bloody guerrilla war in the Kenyan forest from 1952 to 1956 through a series of attacks on African collaborators and raids on white farms.19 For its part, France had to contend with a fight for independence by the Algerian FLN in its North African department, which broke out on November 1, 1954. Using the guerrilla tactics of sabotage and attacks on French targets, the FLN defied the French colonial power in an eight-year-long war that ended in 1962 with Algeria’s independence.20

In Geneva, the ICRC advocated the view that the applicability of Article 3 needed to be as expansive as possible and should therefore also include colonial rebellions. This seemed all the more reasonable since the provisions involved were minimum humanitarian standards that had already been anchored in national law long before the signing of the Geneva Conventions.21 But authorities in the colonial metropoles took the standpoint that the position of their own security forces should not be weakened by humanitarian norms, or more precisely, the rebels should not be granted protection in the war against the “anti-colonial threat.” Therefore, Great Britain and France refused to recognize the minimum standards of the Geneva Conventions in their conflicts in East and North Africa. Their rationale was that neither case represented a war or an “armed conflict.” By using the neutral terms “emergency” and “civil disturbance,” London attempted to belie the true nature of events in East Africa.22 In July 1954, the Colonial Office stated in an internal paper that it would be extremely undesirable to have the “emergency” in Kenya treated as a war.23 The French government officially held the position that no war was taking place in Algeria, that it was only dealing with several “événements.”24 Subsequently, Paris tried to belittle the nature of the Algerian War by referring to it as a series of “opérations de police,” “actions de maintien de l’ordre,” and “enterprises de pacification.”

By describing the situation with euphemisms like “civil unrest” and “events,” the governments in London and Paris attempted not only to cover up the true nature of the conflicts but also to criminalize their opponents and deny them any legitimation.25 Accordingly, the attacks were the deeds of “subversive elements” endangering the legitimate order in the overseas possessions. In the eyes of the British, the Mau Mau movement was a criminal band of “terrorists” and “primitive savages” who plundered indiscriminately and murdered defenseless people.26 For this reason, captured Mau Mau fighters were not treated as prisoners of war but as common criminals, as was reported by the British command in Kenya to the Colonial Office.27 From the French standpoint, the struggle in Algeria was also a fight against “terrorists” and “bandits” who posed a threat to the unity of the nation and its North African department.28 In both cases, the colonial powers viewed the members of the liberation movements as criminals, not soldiers. Because the insurgents lacked the status of combatant, they could not assert a claim to the protection accorded by international humanitarian law. One French sergeant justified the execution of captured FLN fighters by stating: “We don’t take prisoners. These people are not soldiers.”29

By taking this position, the colonial powers completely counteracted the new provisions of the Geneva Conventions that they had just co-authored and signed. The wars of decolonization in Kenya and Algeria thus became the first major challenge and testing ground for the revised provisions of international humanitarian law.


Too Little, Too Late: The ICRC and the Mau Mau War


In both of these wars of decolonization, the ICRC in Geneva attempted to fulfill its role as the most important institution to safeguard and promote international humanitarian law. In a letter dated December 13, 1954, Pierre Gaillard, the head of the ICRC’s executive body, expressed his opinion that, in light of the situations in Kenya and North Africa, the organization needed to find modalities for intervening in these internal conflicts. In his view, it was already clear that the ICRC could not remain uninvolved in situations of this kind.30This position also illustrated the conceptual change that the Committee in Geneva was undergoing after 1945. The increasing number of new conflicts erupting in the wake of the breakdown of the old colonial order pushed the International Red Cross gradually to abandon its long-standing, highly Eurocentric orientation and to involve itself more and more on the African and Asian continents.31 In this way, the decolonization wars served as catalysts for new involvement and contributed significantly to a broader conceptualization of the ICRC’s areas of responsibility.

In late December 1954, the International Committee finally decided on certain guidelines in handling “internal unrest.”32 According to these guidelines, each intervention was to pursue strictly humanitarian objectives and was neither to interfere with nor evaluate government measures on restoring order. The Committee in Geneva stressed not only its own neutrality and nonpartisanship as a humanitarian organization but also the highly confidential character of its missions, the results of which were not meant for the public but for the responsible government authorities exclusively. Moreover, the paper underscored that a humanitarian intervention on the part of the ICRC was not to have an impact on a legal or de facto recognition of the parties involved. Support by the national Red Cross organization in the countries involved was welcome, but at the same time one was aware of the fact that national Red Cross societies tended to act in the interest of their governments and not as nonpartisan organizations. In conclusion, the ICRC officials emphasized that certain humanitarian standards were to be upheld, such as the humane treatment of detainees and the wounded, as well as the prohibition of torture under all circumstances also following the declaration of an emergency.

Thus, the help for victims of “inner unrest” became one of the most important and simultaneously most difficult tasks of the ICRC.33 For this reason, the Committee appointed an independent international commission of experts in October 1955 to work out the organization’s own scope of action in this type of conflict.34 The final report by this commission came to the conclusion that international humanitarian law should be given great weight also in internal conflicts and that the ICRC could be active in its function as a humanitarian organization on the basis of Article 3, paragraph 2, of the Geneva Conventions.35 In the eyes of the authorities in Geneva, this opened new doors to the Red Cross to be active also in internal conflicts, even as the colonial powers viewed the final report with growing concern.36

Especially in the British Foreign Office and Colonial Office, officials worried that the ICRC would subsequently be instrumentalized as an international organization, much like the United Nations, to exert pressure on the colonial governments and serve the propaganda intentions of the anticolonial bloc.37 Therefore, with regard to the situations in Malaya and Kenya, London instructed the delegates of the British Red Cross (BRC) to vehemently oppose the new intervention policy at the Nineteenth International Conference of the Red Cross that was to be held in New Delhi in January 1957.38 In spite of the fact that a few national Red Cross societies did take this stance at the conference, the International Committee in Geneva, backed by the findings of the expert commission, began to become more intensively involved in the colonial wars in North and East Africa.39

The ICRC had been following the conflict in Kenya with growing interest since October 1952, receiving valuable information from the ICRC delegate for British Central Africa, G. C. Senn, as well as from reports issued by nongovernmental organizations like the Kenya Committee.40However, Senn not only reported on the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the British colony but also strongly criticized the role of the BRC. Instead of supporting the intervention efforts of the International Committee and impartially offering humanitarian aid, as stipulated by the principles of the Red Cross, the organization in Kenya reportedly acting according to the racial discriminatory regulations established in the colony and serving above all the interests of the white colonial rulers.41 Therefore, the devastating evaluation of the ICRC delegate was “that the British Red Cross does NOT do its duty in the whole matter, has never done it and does not show any intention do change its attitude.”42

In Geneva, ICRC officials were also forced to concede that there was no hope they would receive support from the British Red Cross representatives for their efforts in East Africa. In addition to the fact that the aid supplied by the BRC concentrated exclusively on the victims of Mau Mau violence, the leadership in London opposed any form of intervention by the ICRC.43 The situation in the British Crown colony was said by the vice-chair of the BRC, Lady Limerick, not to be comparable with the situation in North Africa, where the International Committee had already commenced with its activities.44 In Kenya, the problem was not civil war but only “barbarian” tribal unrest, which was now under the control of security forces. Therefore, one saw no reason for the International Committee to be active, especially since several colleagues had already provided extensive humanitarian aid. The Red Cross society in London also agreed with the official position of the British government that Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions could not be applied in the Kenyan emergency.45

In their attacks, Mau Mau fighters and members of the FLN undoubtedly resorted to cruel methods, which often led to the murder and mutilation of the victims. The use and spread of terror was a key element in their guerilla tactics, but it was one directed specifically at representatives of the hated colonial regime and not arbitrarily against the entire population. One particularly bloody example was the Lari massacre of March 1953, in which a Mau Mau commando murdered 120 African inhabitants of a village loyal to the British colonial power.46

However, while the British side expressed unwavering opposition to the idea of recognizing humanitarian norms, the Mau Mau movement attempted to commit its troops to uphold certain rules of war. As a reaction to the excessive use of violence in Lari, the Mau Mau did indeed pass a resolution at a meeting in July 1953 under the direction of the leading generals Dedan Kimathi and Waruhiu Itote in which the killing of women and children by their soldiers was strictly forbidden.47 Unlike the British colonial power, the Mau Mau leadership began to establish rules of war, which were followed by the vast majority of their troops.48The “Rules of Conduct,” passed on January 4, 1954, prohibited the killing of persons under eighteen years of age, the mishandling of civilians, the rape of women, and attacks on civilian facilities such as hospitals and schools.49 With the passage of these rules, the Mau Mau movement committed itself to enforcing certain minimum humanitarian standards. Yet no reference was made here to the provisions of “Geneva Law” because the vast majority of Africans were not even aware of their existence. Only later, on rare occasions, did interned Mau Mau fighters, like the prisoner spokesman Josiah Mwangi Kariuki, refer in their protests to the Geneva Conventions and demand treatment according to these standards.50 The prisoners in Kenyan detention camps first came into direct contact with representatives of international humanitarian law through the ICRC missions there, which prompted Kariuki to write a letter to the Committee in Geneva expressing his particular interest in the work of the International Red Cross.51

However, the ICRC did not begin its work in Kenya until 1957, once the efforts of the officials in Geneva finally succeeded.52 Early that year, at a point when military operations had nearly ceased, the government in London granted the ICRC delegates L. A. Gailland and H. P. Junod access to various camps and prisons.53 During their two-month-long mission in March and April 1957, the two men visited a total of fifty-two detention sites and eighteen “new villages,” where they were able to inspect conditions and talk to detainees without the presence of guards or other detention officials.54 The findings from this mission were summarized in a confidential report, which was submitted to the British government with a few recommendations.55 Overall, the ICRC delegates assessed the prison conditions in the British detention camps positively; they confirmed finding an excellent state of hygiene, good housing options, as well as a sufficient diet and good medical care for the prisoners.56 They only criticized the use of whipping as a form of punishment and demanded that it be stopped immediately.

Remarkably, the ICRC report neither brought up the issue concerning the widespread use of torture and the mishandling of prisoners in the camps by British interrogation teams nor did it mention the “rehabilitation measures” of the “dilution technique.” This method consisted of the deliberate use of brute force against hardcore supporters of the Mau Mau movement with the aim of breaking their resistance in order to be able to release them to general detention upon completion of the “rehabilitation process.” The colonial government in Nairobi made no effort to conceal this procedure from the ICRC mission; on the contrary, officials discussed the topic extensively with Delegate Junod. In a highly confidential letter dated June 25, 1957, and addressed to the colonial secretary, Governor Evelyn Baring wrote: “I have privately discussed this question with Dr. Junod of the International Red Cross, who I knew well in South Africa and who has spent his whole life working with Africans and most of it with African prisoners. He has no doubt in his own mind that if the violent shock was the price to be paid for pushing detainees out [ . . . ] we should pay it.”57 In this way, Junod condoned, as an ICRC representative, the mishandling of detainees. After having witnessed himself the dilution technique, he noted to his British escort Terence Gavaghan: “Do not distress yourself. Compared with the French in Algeria, you are angels of mercy.”58 Therefore, it is not astonishing that the British considered Junod a man to trust; he was even consulted thereafter by authorities in Nairobi on issues concerning the physically violent treatment of prisoners.59 Moreover, Governor Baring asked him in a letter, dated July 9, 1957, to suggest alternatives for the “dilution technique,” which was urgently necessary but could also cause serious “political difficulties.”60

Eventually, it was these feared “consequences” of British practices that led the ICRC to send a second mission to Kenya in 1959. The excessive use of force in the British detention camps became the focus of public interest following an incident on March 3, 1959, in which eleven prisoners were slain in Hola Camp as a result of a “shock treatment.”61 The government in London resorted to cover-up tactics in an effort to reduce the public pressure growing out of the incident. To this effect, it considered publishing the confidential report of the first ICRC mission, in order to convince the public of the good conditions in the camps. The Red Cross in Geneva raised no objections to the resulting government request to publish the report but pointed out that the findings were by then two years old and recommended a new mission in light of recent events.62 This proposal was well received by the Colonial Office since, in the eyes of Colonial Secretary Alan Lennox-Boyd, a renewed involvement on the part of the ICRC would be seen as a positive signal after the Hola incident.63 Governor Baring shared this opinion and supported the idea of a Red Cross mission, “particularly if Monsieur Junod could again be associated with this work, since he has great experience of prisons and detainee camps and a wide knowledge of Africans.”64

Under these circumstances, the ICRC delegates Dr. J. M. Rubli and H. P. Junod visited a total of eight different Kenyan detention sites in June and July 1959.65 However this time, unlike in 1957, the delegates discovered such grievous offenses during their inspections that the Committee in Geneva felt compelled to send Dr. Rubli and ICRC vice president Dr. Marcel Junod to London in early August, even before the final report was submitted, in order to consult personally with the British government.66 In addition to a series of recommendations to improve prison conditions, the ICRC representatives addressed in particular the mishandling of prisoners and expressed their shock at the extent of the use of force in the detention camps.67 According to Dr. Rubli, several witnesses had reported severe torture by British Special Branch officers in order to force confessions and break prisoners’ will to resist.68 Contrary to 1957, when the ICRC delegates did not even mention the “dilution technique” in their report, let alone protest against it, Dr. Rubli and Dr. Junod now vehemently demanded the immediate halt to torture and physical punishment. The recommendations of the ICRC were widely supported within the Colonial Office, and officials promised to implement them without delay.69 Surprisingly—and completely contrary to the behavior of the Foreign Office and the BRC—the ministry was even of the opinion that the immediate application of Article 3 to the “problems in Kenya” could have prevented a number of disagreeable situations.70 Shortly thereafter, the new British colonial secretary, Ian Macleod, ordered the closure of all existing camps as soon as possible.71


A Losing Battle: The ICRC and the Algerian War


Unlike its late involvement in Kenya, the ICRC began to consider a possible intervention in the Algerian War immediately after hostilities started in November 1954.72 For this reason, ICRC delegate William H. Michel met with French prime minister Pierre Mendès-France on January 31, 1955. At this meeting, the International Committee offered its humanitarian aid and proposed to send a mission to visit the detention sites in North Africa.73 Mendès-France accepted this offer on condition that the activities of the Red Cross would remain restricted solely to the detention camps and that the final report would be treated as highly confidential.74 By granting the ICRC this permission, the French prime minister made possible the first mission to Algeria from February to March 1955.75 It was the first of many extensive activities by the Committee throughout the entire war.76

By July 1962, a total of nine subsequent missions had been sent, resulting in the inspection of over five hundred different detention sites. However, the scope of activity of the ICRC during this period did not remain limited to the inspection of prison conditions but expanded during the course of the war. In addition to the mediation role it played in the exchange of French prisoners by the FLN, the International Red Cross also tried from 1957 on to mitigate the needs of the Algerian civilian population with large-scale relief supplies in the refugee camps in Tunisia and Morocco, as well as in the resettlement camps.77 The humanitarian work benefiting the displaced Algerian civilian population was supported by the Croix-RougeFrançaise (CRF) starting in the summer of 1959, but only after Geneva had vehemently demanded the participation of the national Red Cross society.78 However, the CRF supplied only limited amounts of aid and concentrated on helping children, since little sympathy could be mustered for the Muslim population and for potential rebels in particular.79

Still, the central task of the ICRC continued to be the inspection of prison facilities and detention camps. Although the delegates were denied access to several camps during their first visit to Algeria in 1955, in the following missions they were allowed to talk to prisoners without supervision and summarize all of their findings in a final report.80 The legal authority for the work of the International Committee was not the Geneva Conventions as a whole but only the limited mandate spelled out in Article 3. This led to the paradoxical situation that the French government silently accepted the validity of Article 3 in the Algerian War by permitting the ICRC missions, while adamantly refusing to officially recognize international humanitarian law in the “internal affairs” in North Africa.81 Officials in Geneva repeatedly tried to commit both warring parties to compliance with the minimum standards of international law.82 On May 28, 1958, the ICRC sent a letter addressed to both the FLN and the French government in which it demanded that both sides unconditionally uphold Article 3 and that the captured members of each of the armed forces be treated humanely and viewed not as common criminals but as prisoners of war according to the convention standards.83

This appeal was received with open arms on the part of the FLN leadership, because it was a declared objective of the Algerian liberation front to have the validity of all four Geneva Conventions recognized for the conflict in North Africa.84 In order to achieve this, one basic prerequisite was that its own troops respect the provisions of “Geneva Law.” Therefore, the Algerian executive committee instructed the commanders as well as the officers and noncommissioned officers of the Armée de Libération Nationale (ALN) to strictly observe the provisions of the Geneva Conventions and to treat captured troops according to the humanitarian standards stipulated for prisoners of war.85 In his first statement as president of the provisional Algerian government (GPRA) on September 26, 1958, Ferhat Abbas emphasized that the GPRA would highly welcome every international initiative to ensure the application of the Geneva Conventions to the Algerian War.86 In addition, Abbas pointed out in a memorandum to the ICRC, dated November 24, 1958, that the Algerian leadership had always championed the observance of the Geneva Conventions in this conflict, unlike France, which permanently and flagrantly violated its international law commitments.87 Algerian efforts on behalf of the recognition of the Geneva Conventions reached a high point in 1960 when the GPRA officially decided to ratify the conventions and signed them in Bern on June 20 of that year.88 Especially through a well-directed propaganda campaign, which included, among other things, the publication of the “White Paper on the Application of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 to the French-Algerian Conflict,” the FLN attempted to document its unconditional commitment to “Geneva Law,” in order thereby to enhance its standing internationally and at the same time to shame France in front of the entire world.89

The tactics used by the FLN and particularly the initiatives coming from Geneva increased pressure on the French government to make further concessions. In a letter dated July 30, 1958, the French foreign ministry expressed great surprise at the criticism leveled by the ICRC, since France, as one of the first signatories of the Geneva Conventions, already fully respected all Article 3 provisions and any violation was punished severely and immediately.90The extensive support given the Red Cross missions was said to prove this, and Paris in turn demanded that the International Committee turn its efforts instead to making the rebels uphold the rules of war.

Even within the French army command in Algeria, the unceasing efforts of the International Red Cross led to a change of heart, particularly with regard to captured ALN members.91 As early as November 24, 1957, the supreme commander of French forces in Algeria, General Raoul Salan, issued a secret order that rebels who openly bore arms and were captured in battle were to be treated as best as possible as prisoners of war according to the Geneva Conventions provisions.92 This order was expanded on March 19, 1958, with the establishment of special military internment camps, the centres militaire d’internés (CMI), in which prisoners, “pris les armes à la main,” were to be treated as liberally as possible.93

This new attitude of the French high command was due less to humanitarian concerns than to military necessity. The military had discovered that, even in the most hopeless situations, ALN fighters preferred to fight to the death rather than be taken prisoner because of the reports circulating about the horrific torture and subsequent executions of their captured comrades by French troops. By pursing the most liberal prisoner policy possible, the high command intended to eliminate the fears of the enemy, “with the aim thereby of reducing one’s own casualties.”94 At the same time, however, Salan once again underscored in his order that the internees were not to be viewed as prisoners of war and that the Geneva Conventions were not applicable to them. Not until November 1959, after Salan was succeeded by General Maurice Challe, were the prisoners of the military internment camp referred to as “assimilés aux membres d’une armée ennemie.”95 Yet it still took until 1961, at a point when the French government was already conducting talks with the GPRA, until the validity of Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions was officially recognized and its implementation also required in the CMIs.96

Especially by way of the mission reports, the ICRC attempted to influence the situation of the detainees in the camps and prisons. In order to do so, the Committee kept in close contact with the French government and, in private talks, presented the French with a series of suggested improvements. In 1956, French prime minister Guy Mollet proved very open to these recommendations from Geneva and promised to undertake the necessary measures.97In Paris, the government was glad that the second mission report of the ICRC had evaluated the handling of prisoners as being humane on the whole.98 As a result, the French even considered publishing the findings, despite the confidential status of the report.99 In the period that followed, the Red Cross reports also spoke of progress in the state of the facilities at the camps, the housing options, and the hygienic conditions. Yet at the same time, the ICRC expressly warned France to stay the course.100

In his secret report to the Committee in Geneva on April 17, 1960, even the former commandant of Camp Colbert, Paul-Albert Février, confirmed the positive influence of the ICRC missions, which he said were absolutely necessary.101 Février reported that the visit by Red Cross representatives at a camp was immediately followed by the permission to distribute packages, letters, and blankets, while funds for construction projects in the camp became available faster and in greater amounts. However, Février also stated that the missions had no impact on the treatment of prisoners, who continued to be “routinely” mishandled and tortured. The numerous improvements implemented by French authorities were not strongly motivated by a sense of humanity but served the purpose of maintaining the “humanitarian” façade of the camps.

A letter by General Hubert written in October 1958 proves this point quite impressively. Hubert notes that a recent inspection of the facilities at Camp Béni Messous had revealed serious defects. Since the Red Cross was due to visit the camp again, these had to be fixed without delay.102 In the eyes of the French military staff in Algiers, the ICRC in general was not to be given any reason to file an unfavorable report, “which, should it be published, would demoralize the army and put the government on the spot in future negotiations.”103

Contrary to the positive development of the physical conditions at the camps, the ICRC delegates registered a growing number of complaints about serious mishandling in the course of interrogation by security forces.104 In October and November 1956, the medical expert in the third mission, Dr. Gailland, discovered that a large number of detainees had serious injuries caused by beatings and severe burns caused by cigarettes extinguished on the skin and by electric shocks applied particularly to the genital area.105 The vehement protest of the ICRC to the French government against these “interrogation methods” had no impact. Especially during the “battle for Algiers” in spring 1957, the number of torture cases increased dramatically.106 Numerous prisoners reported to the ICRC representatives that they had been severely tortured during their interrogation by police and special military units, particularly the paratroopers, so that, in the report on the fifth mission, the authorities in Geneva once again sent an insistent message to Paris: “The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has pointed out this grave problem to the French government repeatedly (in its reports from July 1956, November 1956, July 1957) is compelled once again to direct the urgent attention [of the French government] to facts that are in complete violation of the spirit of Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.”107

Later, ICRC reports confirmed that none of the protests from Geneva against the systematic mishandling of detainees led to any appreciable results.108 On the contrary, an internal paper by the International Committee in December 1959 verified that the use of torture was again dramatically on the rise in Algeria, as a consequence both of the concentration of state power in the hands of the French army and of military operations connected to the Challe Plan, in which intelligence gathering played a key role.109 In addition to these reports of torture, the Committee in Geneva received information time and again from its delegates about serious war crimes perpetrated by the French army, such as the bombardment of villages with napalm and the mass executions of prisoners.110 On January 5, 1960, the leading French newspaper, Le Monde, published the confidential report of the seventh ICRC mission, which had landed inexplicably in the hands of the paper’s journalists.111 The published findings on systematic torture in Algeria shocked the international public and unleashed a storm of protest.112 However, the newspaper article also documented the powerlessness of the ICRC, which had not succeeded in effectively stopping major human rights violations despite its intensive efforts over the years.



In Kenya as well as Algeria, the ICRC tried to establish minimum humanitarian standards in these internal conflicts. In both cases, the officials in Geneva failed because of the resistance by the colonial powers Great Britain and France, which adamantly refused to recognize the Geneva Conventions in connection with colonial conflicts so as not to hinder their own security forces in what they viewed as a fight again “terrorists” and “subversive elements.” Thus, the ICRC was denied access to the British Crown colony in East Africa during the “hot phase” of the Mau Mau War from 1952 to 1956. Only after the military operations had been nearly completed in 1957 did the British government allow an ICRC mission to visit the detention camps. Given this opportunity, the Red Cross delegation then acted negligently by failing to address, let alone vehemently criticize, the issue of severe torture and mishandling in the camps. Not until the second mission in 1959 did the ICRC bluntly disclose the catastrophic conditions in the British detention camps and emphatically demand that London act quickly to correct them. However, this occurred at a point when the British government, prompted by domestic considerations following the Hola Camp massacre, had already made the decision to release detainees and completely close down the camps.

The case was different in Algeria, where the ICRC sent the first of several missions at the very beginning of the war. However, except for successfully recommending the improvement of living conditions, the Red Cross representatives could do little for the prisoners, had no influence on France’s general conduct of the war, and could not prevent massive human rights violations. One reason for this was certainly the fact that the mandate of the ICRC delegates was limited to Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and that the French government permitted visits only to detention sites. At the same time, it was impossible for the International Red Cross to monitor effectively the enormous number of Algerian camps, especially because the organization was denied entrance to the secret “interrogation centers” run by the army and the police, the places where most of the torture took place. Therefore, in a circular memorandum to the national Red Cross societies, the International Committee acknowledged with resignation that—despite the improvements in camp conditions—its bid in Algeria “to ‘humanize’ a conflict which was so savage and ferocious” had failed, nor had it achieved its mission “to ensure respect for the provisions of Article 3.”113 Hence, the Red Cross officials from Geneva had proved powerless against the unbridled colonial violence that occurred in Algeria and Kenya and against the accompanying phenomena of war crimes, detention, resettlement, and the systematic use of torture.

This bitter results demonstrated only all too clearly to the ICRC that the Geneva Conventions had not stood up to the test in wars of decolonization. The protection measures for international humanitarian law in internal conflicts were vastly insufficient and improvement was urgently necessary.114 As the expert commission of 1955 showed, this realization had already occurred during the course of the decolonization wars and had propelled the issue of addressing internal conflicts to the top of the agenda for the leadership in Geneva.115 In 1968, the United Nations General Assembly demand in its Resolution 2444 “Respect for Human Rights in Armed Conflicts” that international humanitarian law be revised in cooperation with the ICRC.116 The result of the protracted process that followed were two additional protocols to the Geneva Conventions, passed on June 8, 1977.117

Reflecting the lessons learned, so to speak, from the wars of decolonization of the 1950s and 1960s, the first protocol expanded the protection of international humanitarian law explicitly to include “armed conflicts in which peoples are fighting against colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist regimes in the exercise of the right of self-determination,” while the second additional protocol focused completely on the protection of victims of noninternational armed conflict.118 As this document expressly emphasized, these protocols were meant to develop and supplement Article 3 of the provisions from 1949. The loopholes in international humanitarian law that had become so sorely evident in the wars of decolonization were thus closed.



1. ICRC Memorandum “La Croix-Rouge s’élève contre la torture et l’abus des actes de violence,” October 1962, Archives du Comité International da la Croix-Rouge (ACICR), BAG 202 000–003.07.

2. Ibid., 2.

3. This essay is based on an extensive study of literature and sources in connection with the research for my book Menschenrechte im Schatten kolonialer Gewalt: Die Dekolonisierungskriege in Kenia und Algerien, 1945–1962 (Munich: R. Oldenbourg, 2009). The essay was also supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and profited from the suggestions and remarks of many, for which I am grateful. I specifically want to thank Prof. Martin Geyer.

4. Jan Eckel, “Utopie der Moral, Kalkül der Macht: Menschenrechte in der globalen Politik seit 1945,” Archiv für Sozialgeschichte 49 (2009): 439–50; Peter Walker and Daniel Maxwell,Shaping the Humanitarian World (New York: Routledge, 2009), 32–33.

5. As representative of the extensive literature on the development of international humanitarian law, see Geoffrey Best, Humanity in Warfare (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980); Best, War and Law since 1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994); Elizabeth Chadwick, Self-Determination, Terrorism and the International Humanitarian Law of Armed Conflict (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1996); René Provost, International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002); Roberta Arnold and Noelle Quénivet, eds., International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff, 2008); François Bugnion, The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Protection of War Victims (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).

6. David P. Forsythe, “Human Rights and the International Committee of the Red Cross,”Human Rights Quarterly 12, no. 2 (May 1990): 265–89.

7. Best, War and Law, 80–81.

8. On the process of drafting the Geneva Conventions of 1949, see especially Jean S. Pictet, “The New Geneva Conventions for the Protection of War Victims,” American Journal of International Law 45, no. 3 (July 1951): 462–68; Francois Bugnion, “The Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949: From the 1949 Diplomatic Conference to the Dawn of the New Millennium,” International Affairs 76, no. 1 (January 2000): 41–45.

9. For general perspectives, see Raymund T. Yingling and Robert W. Ginnane, “The Geneva Conventions of 1949,” American Journal of International Law 46, no. 3 (July 1952): 393–427; “The New Geneva Conventions,” British Medical Journal 2, no. 4732 (September 15, 1951): 667–68; Pictet, “New Geneva Conventions,” 468–75; Bugnion, “Geneva Convention,” 42. Each of the four conventions contains an article on these “grave breaches.” See Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, Art. 50, in ICRC, ed., The Geneva Conventions of August 12 1949 (Geneva: ICRC, n.d.), 43; Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea, Art. 51, in ibid., 69; Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Art. 130, in ibid., 131; Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Art. 147, in ibid., 211. See also Best, “Justice, International Relations and Human Rights,” International Affairs 71, no. 4 (October 1995): 781.

10. Pictet, ed., Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War: Commentary (Geneva: ICRC, 1958), 34.

11. Bugnion, ICRC, 336.

12. Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, in ICRC, ed., Geneva Conventions, 24.

13. Richard Baxter, “Human Rights in War,” Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 31, no. 2 (November 1977): 7; Yingling and Ginnane, “Geneva Conventions,” 395.

14. Memorandum “Revision of Geneva Conventions,” from the Foreign Office, January 25, 1949, United Kingdom National Archives (TNA), FO 369/4143; Letter “Civil War Articles” from the United Kingdom Delegation to the Diplomatic Conference for the Protection of War Victims to the Foreign Office, July 19, 1949, TNA, FO 369/4158. On the overall position of the British government, see also Best, War and Law, 5–15.

15. Letter from the Colonial Office to the Foreign Office, June 25, 1949, TNA, FO 369/4155.

16. Best, War and Law, 174; Pictet, ed., Fourth Geneva Convention Commentary, 32. Both countries had been influential in drafting the Geneva Conventions and had signed them in 1949. France ratified the conventions on June 28, 1951, whereas Great Britain did not ratify the new provision of international humanitarian law until September 23, 1957. On this point, see ICRC, ed., Annual Report 1957 (Geneva: ICRC, 1958), 65.

17. On this point, see “Rapport sur l’activité du Comité international de la Croix-Rouge en faveur des ‘partisans’ tombés aux mains de l’ennemi,” Revue Internationale de la Croix-Rouge, no. 334 (October 1946): 797–806; André Durand, History of the International Committee of the Red Cross: From Sarajevo to Hiroshima (Geneva: ICRC, 1984), 551. Best,War and Law, 88.

18. See here in particular Robert Holland, ed., Emergencies and Disorder in the European Empires after 1945 (London: Frank Cass, 1994).

19. The origins of the term “Mau-Mau” have still not been definitely determined. One explanation refers to a British police operation against an illegal oath ceremony, in which the participants are to have yelled the warning “mau mau,” which roughly means “get out, get out.” On this, see Robert Edgerton, Mau Mau: An African Crucible (New York: Free Press, 1989), 56. On the British war of decolonization in Kenya, see, for example, David Anderson,Histories of the Hanged: The Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire (New York: W. W. Norton, 2005), and Caroline Elkins, Britain’s Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya(London: Jonathan Cape, 2005).

20. Examples of work on the Algerian War are Hartmut Elsenhans, Frankreichs Algerienkrieg, 1954–1962: Entkolonialisierungsversuch einer kapitalistischen Metropole: Zum Zusammenbruch der Kolonialreiche (Munich: Carl Hanser, 1974); Alistair Horne, A Savage War of Peace: Algeria, 1954–1962 (New York: Viking, 1978); Mohammed Harbi and Benjamin Stora, eds., La Guerre d’Algérie, 1954–2004: La fin de l’amnésie (Paris: Robert Laffont, 2004).

21. Pictet, ed., Fourth Geneva Convention Commentary, 36. On the validity of Article 3 in colonial conflicts, see also Morris Greenspan, “International Law and Its Protection for Participants in Unconventional Warfare,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 341 (May 1962): 39–40.

22. Frank Füredi, Colonial Wars and the Politics of Third World Nationalism (London: I. B. Tauris: 1994), 192; Anderson, Histories of the Hanged, 238.

23. Minutes to T. K. Lloyd, July 12, 1954, TNA, CO 822/774.

24. Guy Pervillé, “Guerre étrangère et guerre civile en Algérie, 1954–1962,” Relations internationales 14 (1978): 171–72; John Talbott, The War without Name: France in Algeria, 1954–1962 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980), 51.

25. On the criminalization of irregular fighters, see also Carl Schmitt, Theorie des Partisanen: Zwischenbemerkung zum Begriff des Politischen (Berlin: Duncker und Humblot, 1963), 35–36.

26. Walter Carey, Crisis in Kenya: Christian Common Sense on Mau Mau and the Colour-Bar (London: A. R. Mowbray, 1953), 11–12; C. T. Stoneham, Out of Barbarism (London: Museum Press Limited, 1955), 115; Edgerton, Mau Mau, 112.

27. Confidential telegram from Gouverneur Baring to the Colonial Office, July 25, 1953, TNA, CO 822/441.

28. Benjamin Stora, La gangrène et l’oubli: La mémoire de la guerre d’Algérie (Paris: La Découverte, 1998), 20.

29. Original: “On ne fait pas de prisonniers [ . . . ] Ces gens ne sont pas de soldats.” Pierre Leulliette, Sankt Michael und der Drachen: Ein Bericht aus Algerien (Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1962), 15. The report by the French paratrooper Leulliette, in which he published an account of his war experiences in Algeria, was banned in France because of several controversial details.

30. Confidential letter by P. Gaillard to the ICRC Delegate C. Vautier, December 13, 1954, ACICR, B AG 209 008–001.

31. Forsythe, The Humanitarians: The International Committee of the Red Cross(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 57–92; Georges Willemin and Roger Heacock, The International Committee of the Red Cross (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1984), 37–56.

32. ICRC Paper “Concerne: Troubles intérieurs,” December 31, 1954, ACICR, D EUR France 1–0370.

33. ICRC, ed., Annual Report 1957(Geneva: ICRC, 1958), 34; Willemin and Heacock, International Committee of the Red Cross, 188–92.

34. This issue had already been discussed in 1953 by a commission of experts. On this, see “Report of the Commission of Experts for the Examination of the Question of Assistance to Political Detainees,” in ICRC, ed., Report on the Work of the International Committee of the Red Cross (January 1 to December 31, 1953) (Geneva: ICRC, 1954), 84–91.

35. Report of the Commission d’experts chargée d’examiner la question de l’application des principes humanitaires en cas de troubles intérieurs, October 8, 1955, ACICR, D EUR France 1–0376; and ICRC, ed., Annual Report 1955 (Geneva: ICRC, 1956), 75–80.

36. Letter from Paul Ruegger to ICRC President Léopold Boissier, October 10, 1955, ACICR, Procès-verbaux des Séances du Comité 1948–59, 175–76.

37. Letter from the Foreign Office to the Colonial Office, February 16, 1956, TNA, CO 936/391; Letter from the Colonial Office to the Foreign Office, June 5, 1956, ibid.

38. Letter from the Colonial Office to the Foreign Office, June 5, 1956, ibid.

39. ICRC, ed., Annual Report 1957 (Geneva: ICRC, 1958), 34–35.

40. Note pour le Comité, April 6, 1954, ACICR, B AG 200 108–001; Note pour le Comité, June 8, 1955, ACICR, B AG 225 108–001; Letter from the Kenya Committee to the ICRC, March 17, 1954, ACICR, B AG 200 108–001.

41. Note for the ICRC from Senn, June 29, 1955, ibid.; Note for the ICRC from Senn, October 24, 1955, ibid.

42. Note for the ICRC from Senn, March 26, 1956, ibid.

43. Note au CICR, November 19, 1954, ibid.

44. Letter from Lady Limerick to ICRC President Boissier, August 9, 1955, ACICR, B AG 225 108–001.

45. Letter from Lady Limerick to the Colonial Office, January 11, 1957, TNA, CO 822/1258. When dealing with the ICRC, the BRC remained adamant about this point until the end of the emergency in Kenya. See Letter from Lady Limerick to ICRC President Boissier, August 24, 1959, ACICR, B AG 225 108–001. On the position held by the British government, see Letter from the ICRC to H. Junod, June 30, 1959, ibid.; “Britain Has Barred Red Cross in Kenya,” Reynolds News, December 16, 1956.

46. On the Lari massacre, see Anderson, Histories of the Hanged, 119–80; Edgerton, Mau Mau, 79.

47. Waruhiu Itote, Mau Mau General (Nairobi: East African Publishing House, 1967), 129.

48. Edgerton, Mau Mau, 126.

49. “Rules of Conduct in the Forest,” in Itote, Mau Mau General, 285–91.

50. Josiah Mwangi Kariuki, Mau Mau Detainee: The Account by a Kenyan African of His Experience in Detention Camps, 1953–1960 (London: Oxford University Press, 1975), 67, 75; Edgerton, Mau Mau, 193.

51. See here the letter from Josiah Mwangi Karinbi (Kariuki) to the ICRC, February 14, 1960, ACICR, B AG 225 108–001.

52. Letter from ICRC President Boissier to British Colonial Secretary Lennox-Boyd, December 27, 1956, ACICR, B AG 225 108–001.

53. Press Release no. 577b, February 18, 1957, in Collection des Communiqués de Presse, nos. 562–635; “Une mission du CICR en route pour le Kenia,” Revue Internationale de la Croix-Rouge, no. 459 (March 1957): 170.

54. “Une mission du CICR au Kenia,” Revue Internationale de la Croix-Rouge, no. 461 (May 1957); ICRC, ed., Annual Report 1957 (Geneva: ICRC, 1958), 39–40.

55. Rapport sur une mission spéciale du CICR au Kenya, ACICR, B AG 225 108–002; General Report on the Mission of the International Committee of the Red Cross, TNA, CO 822/1258.

56. See also Rapport du Dr. Gailland sur la mission qu’il a effectuée avec H. P. Junod au Kenya, April 26, 1957, Procès-verbaux 1948–59, 48–53.

57. Confidential letter from Baring to Colonial Secretary Lennox-Boyd, June 25, 1957, TNA, CO 822/1251.

58. Terence Gavaghan, Of Lions and Dung Beetles (Ilfracombe: Arthur H. Stockwell, 1999), 235.

59. Telegram from Baring to Colonial Office, July 5, 1957, TNA, CO 822/1251.

60. Letter from Junod to the IKRK, July 29, 1957, ACICR, B AG 225 108–001.

61. On the murder of prisoners in Hola Camp, see Edgerton, Mau Mau, 195–200; Anderson,Histories of the Hanged, 326–27; Elkins, Britain’s Gulag, 344–53.

62. Letter of ICRC to the Colonial Office, March 11, 1959, TNA, CO 822/1258.

63. Secret letter from the Colonial Office to Baring, March 31, 1959, TNA, CO 822/1249.

64. Secret letter from Baring to Lennox-Boyd, April 29, 1959, TNA, CO 822/1269.

65. Press release no. 682c, June 12, 1959, in Collection des Communiqués de Presse, nos. 636–749; “Mission du CICR au Kenya,” Revue Internationale de la Croix-Rouge, no. 487 (July 1959): 343; ICRC, ed., Annual Report 1959 (Geneva: ICRC, 1960), 13–14.

66. Note à l’attention de M. R. Gallopin, August 28, 1959, ACICR, B AG 225 108–001. ICRC Vice President Marcel Junod was a cousin of H. P. Junod.

67. Report “Missions à Londres des Drs. Junod et Rubli 6–8 août 1959: Concerne Mission du Dr. Rubli au Kenya” by Dr. Marcel Junod, August 13, 1959, ibid.

68. Record of a meeting with Dr. Rubli and Dr. Marcel Junod of the International Committee of the Red Cross, August 7, 1959, TNA, CO 822/1258. See also Second Mission of the International Committee of the Red Cross to Kenya June–July 1959. Report communicated to the United Kingdom Government, ACICR, B AG 225 108–001, 5–6.

69. Report “Missions à Londres des Drs. Junod et Rubli 6–8 août 1959. Concerne Mission du Dr. Rubli au Kenya” by Dr. Marcel Junod, August 13, 1959, ACICR, B AG 225 108–001.

70. Rapport du Dr. Junod sur sa mission à Londres, August 13, 1959, ibid.

71. David Goldsworthy, Colonial Issues in British Politics, 1945–1961 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), 362–63; Edgerton, Mau Mau, 201; Anderson, Histories of the Hanged, 330; Elkins, Britain’s Gulag, 353.

72. Note au CICR, November 8, 1954, ACICR, B AG 200 008–001.

73. Entretien avec M. Pierre Mendès-France, Président du Conseil, le 31 janvier 1955 by William H. Michel, ACICR, D EUR France 1–0370.

74. Letter from Mendès-France to Michel, February 2, 1955, ibid.

75. Revue Internationale de la Croix-Rouge, no. 439 (July 1955): 454.

76. On the extensive activities of the ICRC during the Algerian War, see ICRC, ed., The ICRC and the Algerian Conflict (Geneva: ICRC, 1962); Bugnion, ICRC, 632–33.

77. Revue Internationale de la Croix-Rouge, no. 466 (October 1957): 551–53, and no. 470 (February 1958): 85–86; ICRC, ed., Annual Report 1957 (Geneva: ICRC, 1958), 27–33; Press release no. 634c, December 12, 1957, in Collection des Communiqués de Presse, vol. 8; Press release no. 686c, October 7, 1959, in Collection des Communiqués de Presse, vol. 9.

78. Report on a meeting of a ICRC delegation with the CRF president, February 25, 1958, ACICR, D EUR France 1–0928; Letter from the CRF to the ICRC, April 14, 1958, ibid.; Note “Action de la Croix-Rouge Française en Algérie” by P. Gaillard, June 9, 1958, ibid.; Letter from P. Gaillard to ICRC Delegate H. Michel, January 21, 1959, ibid.

79. Note “Aide aux populations regroupées en Algérie” from P. Gaillard, September 17, 1959, ibid.

80. Letter from the ICRC to French Prime Minister Faure, May 23, 1955, ACICR, B AG 225 008–004.01; ICRC, ed., ICRC and the Algerian Conflict, 5–6.

81. Ibid., 4–5.

82. Mohammed Bedjaoui, La Révolution Algérienne et le Droit (Brussels: Editions de l’Association internationale des juristes démocrates,1961), 213–19; Roger Pinto, “Pour l’application des conventions de Genève en Algérie,” Le Monde, July 6, 1958.

83. Letter from the ICRC to the French government, May 28, 1958, ACICR, B AG 210 008–003.01.

84. Arnold Fraleigh, “The Algerian Revolution as a Case Study in International Law,” in The International Law of Civil War, ed. Richard A. Falk (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1971), 194.

85. Instructions of the CCE to the ALN commanders, in Farouk Benatia, Les actions humanitaires pendants la lutte de libération (Algiers: Dahlab, 1997), 241–42. A report by the French military staff confirmed the existence of this order but simultaneously noted that the various fighting units of the ALN did not seem themselves uniformly bound to this directive. On this, see the report “Résonance à l’intérieur de l’opération ‘adhésion aux Conventions de Genève’ lancée par l’organisation extérieure” by Lieutenant-Colonel Goubard, September 24, 1960, Service Historique de l’Amée de Terre (SHAT), 1H 1755/D1.

86. Excerpts from the statement by Abbas, September 26, 1958, ACICR, D EUR France 1–0932.

87. “Memorandum of the GPRA, November 24, 1958,” in Benatia, Les actions humanitaires, 313–20.

88. For the decision, see Note de Dossier “Communiqué du GPRA: Ratification des Conventions,” April 12, 1960, ACICR, D EUR France 1–0932; letter from Ferhat Abbas, June 11, 1960, to the ICRC, ACICR, B AG 202 008–007.1. For the ratification, see “Instruments d’Adhesion de la République Algérienne aux Conventions de Genève du 12 Août 1949,” in Bedjaoui, Révolution Algérienne, 201; Michel Veuthey, Guérilla et droit humanitaire(Geneva: Institut Henry-Dunant, 1976), 49.

89. Algerian Office, ed., White Paper on the Application of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 to the French-Algerian Conflict (New York: Algerian Office, 1960).

90. Letter from the French foreign ministry to the ICRC, July 30, 1958, ACICR, B AG 202 008–008.

91. Note à l’attention de M. le Président by P. Gaillard, December 12, 1959, ACICR, B AG 225 008–011, 6–7.

92. Note de service by General Salan, November 24, 1957, ACICR, B AG 225 008–009.01; Note “Situation des prisonniers ‘rebelles’ capturés les armes à la main” from ICRC Delegate Gailland in Algeria to the ICRC, December 20, 1957, ACICR, B AG 210 008–001.

93. Note de service by General Salan, March 19, 1958, SHAT, 1H 1100/1; Veuthey, Guérilla et droit humanitaire, 228.

94. Note de Service by General Salan, March 19, 1958, SHAT, 1H 1100/1.

95. Raphaëlle Branche, “Entre droit humanitaire et intérêts politiques: Les mission algériennes du CICR,” Revue Historique 123 (January–March 1999): 107.

96. Letter from the French foreign ministry to the ICRC, February 27, 1961, ACICR, B AG 202 008–007.02; Règlement du régime intérieur dans les Centres Militaires d’Internés (CMI), April 17, 1961, SHAT, 1H 2019/D2, p. 2.

97. Report by C. Pilloud on the meeting with Guy Mollet, August 28, 1956, ACICR, B AG 200 008–002; Report by P. Gaillard on the meeting with Guy Mollet, November 15, 1956, ACICR, B AG 225 008–002.

98. Rapport sur les visites effectuées lors de la deuxième mission du Comité International de la Croix-Rouge, Mai-Juin 1956, ACICR, B AG 225 008–004.02, 7, 15.

99. Letter from Algerian Governor General Robert Lacoste to Guy Mollet, August 20, 1956, ibid.; Report by W. Michel on the meeting with M. Noel, September 6, 1956, ibid.

100. On this point, see Mission du Comité International de la Croix-Rouge en Algérie, Octobre–Novembre 1956, Rapport communiqué au Gouvernement français, ACICR, B AG 225 008–004.03, 3, 10; Rapports sur les visites effectuées lors de la quatrième mission du CICR en Algérie, Mai-Juin 1957, ACICR, B AG 225 008–004.02, 4; Rapports sur les visites effectuées lors de la septième mission du CICR en Algérie, Octobre-Novembre 1959, ACICR, B AG 225 008–013, 5; Rapports sur les visites effectuées lors de la huitième mission du CICR en Algérie, Janvier-Février 1961, ACICR, B AG 225 008–023, 6, 9.

101. Report from Paul-Albert Fevrier to the ICRC, April 17, 1960, ACICR, D EUR France1–0438.

102. Letter from General Hubert to the Commanders of the Army Corp Algiers, October 7, 1958, SHAT, 1H 2573/D1.

103. Note de Service of the General Staff, November 1961, SHAT, 1H 1493/1.

104. Rapport sur les visites effectuées lors de la deuxième mission du Comité International de la Croix-Rouge, Mai-Juin 1956, ACICR, B AG 225 008–004.02, 14.

105. Mission du Comité International de la Croix-Rouge en Algérie, Octobre–Novembre 1956, Rapport communiqué au Gouvernement français, ACICR, B AG 225 008–004.03, 8–9.

106. Rapports sur les visites effectuées lors de la quatrième mission du CICR en Algérie, Mai–Juin 1957, ACICR, B AG 225 008–004.02, 6.

107. Rapports sur les visites effectuées lors de la cinquième mission du CICR en Algérie, Novembre 1957–Février 1958, ACICR, B AG 225 008–005, 6.

108. On this point, see Rapports sur les visites effectuées lors de la septième mission du CICR en Algérie, Octobre–Novembre 1959, ACICR, B AG 225 008–013, 5; Rapports sur les visites effectuées lors de la neuvième mission du CICR en Algérie, Novembre–Décembre 1961, ACICR, B AG 225 008–022, 4; Letter from ICRC President L. Boissier to French Foreign Minister M. Couve de Murville, February 6, 1962, ACICR, B AG 225 008–033.01.

109. Note à l’attention de M. le Président from P. Gaillard, December 12, 1959, ACICR, B AG 225 008–011, 12–14.

110. Report by Laurent Vust to the ICRC, May 22, 1960, ACICR, B AG 225 008–015.05.

111. “Le Rapport de la Croix-Rouge Internationale sur les camps d’internement d’Algérie,” Le Monde, January 5, 1960.

112. Among other things, the FLN and the anticolonial bloc used the published ICRC report to express massive criticism of France in front of the United Nations in New York. See the publication “The Report of the International Committee of the Red Cross on Torture and Inhuman Treatment of Algerians Held in French Prisons and Camps,” Algerian Office, January 1960, Centre des archives d’outre-mer (CAOM), 81 F529; Letter from the UN delegates from Afghanistan, Burma, Ceylon, Ghana, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia and the United Arab Republic to the UN Secretary General, February 10, 1960, Ministère des Affaires Étrangères (MAE), NUOI carton 1067.

113. Notice, “The ICRC in Algeria: Human Fellowship against Hatred” to the national Red Cross Societies, October 7, 1960, ACICR, B AG 202 008–001.

114. Greenspan, “International Law and Its Protection,” 41.

115. Baxter, “Human Rights in War,” 6, 8.

116. UN GAOR Resolution A/RES/2444 (XXIII) “Declaration on Respect for Human Rights in Armed Conflict,” December 19, 1968.

117. On the process of drafting the additional protocols, see especially R. R. Baxter, “Humanitarian Law or Humanitarian Politics? The 1974 Diplomatic Conference on Humanitarian Law,” Harvard International Law Journal 16, no. 1 (1975): 1–26; Best,Humanity in Warfare, 315–29; Provost, International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, 253–69; Chadwick, Self-Determination and International Humanitarian Law, 65–91. For the treaties, see ICRC, ed., Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 (Geneva: ICRC, 1996).

118. Ibid., 4.


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