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France condemned for welcoming Algerian harkis in the 1960s and 1970s

Photo: Agence France-Presse Four applicants, from the Tamazount family, lived in reception camps, mainly that of Bias, until 1975, or were born in the following years. Here we see the camp on August 8, 1975.

Marc Antoine Baudoux – Agence France-Presse in Strasbourg

April 4, 2024

  • Europe

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) condemned France on Thursday for the living conditions “not compatible with respect for human dignity” of the harkis in the camps where they were received upon their arrival from Algeria in the 1960s and 1970s.

The five applicants are French nationals born between 1957 and 1969, children of harkis, these auxiliaries of Algerian origin who fought alongside the French army during the Algerian war (1954-1962) .

Four of them, from the Tamazount family, arrived in France at the time of Algerian independence in 1962, or were born in France in the following years. They lived in reception camps, mainly that of Bias, in Lot-et-Garonne, until 1975.

They filed various appeals concerning their living conditions, pointing to their confinement, the opening of their mail by the camp administration, the reallocation of their social benefits to camp expenses and their schooling in a school internal to the structure, outside the common law education system.

The ECHR, responsible for ensuring respect for the European Convention on Human Rights, “notes that the daily living conditions of the residents of the Bias camp, of which the applicants were part, were not compatible with respect for human dignity and were also accompanied by attacks on individual freedoms”.

Insufficient repairs

She notes that the French administrative courts have already found that liability for State fault was engaged. France thus paid the applicants €15,000 (CA$22,000) in compensation for material and moral damage.

The ECHR, which sits in Strasbourg, also notes that, subsequent to these reparations, “the law of February 23, 2022 recognized the “responsibility of the Nation” in the unworthy reception and living conditions harkis and their families as well as attacks on their individual freedoms”.

However, the Court, although “aware of the difficulty of quantifying the damage suffered by the applicants”, “considers that the amounts awarded by the domestic courts in this case do not constitute adequate and sufficient compensation to redress the violations noted” .

With regard to inhuman and degrading treatment, “the sums awarded to the applicants are modest compared to what the Court generally awards in cases relating to unworthy conditions of detention”.

The European Court of Human Rights “infers from this that these sums did not cover the damages linked to the other violations of the Convention”.

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“Important memorial work”

“It follows that, in these circumstances, and despite the important memorial work accomplished and the solemn recognitions pronounced by the highest French executive authorities, the national authorities, in setting the amount of compensation paid to the applicants, did not sufficiently take into account the specificity of their living conditions in the Bias camp to remedy the violations of the Convention noted, and therefore, that the payment of this compensation did not deprive them of their status as victim in this regard”, further notes the ECHR.

It thus orders France to pay more than €19,500 (CA$20,600) to the four applicants who are members of the Tamazount family, in proportion to their time spent in the Bias camp.

On the other hand, the ECHR considered in this case that the French courts had not violated the right of access to a court. The fifth applicant, whose father had been executed in 1957 by the Algerian National Liberation Front, and who had joined France in 1980, did not win his case.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116