Review: An Inquiry Into The Algerian Massacres
Youcef Bedjaoui, Abbas Aroua and Meziane Ait-Larbi.
by Noam Chomsky and Lord Avebury,Hoggar,
1999, pp. 1473, ISBN 2-9401 30-08-6.
£24.00 + 5.95 p&p
question of 'who kills whom' in Algeria is stubborn and refuses to
It bounces back again in a new book entitled: An
Inuiry into the Algerian Massacres.
The interrogation permeates the 1473 pages of this bumper
study which comes with two forewords.
In the first foreword, Professor Noam Chomsky describes the
study as ‘impressive and deeply sobering’ and recalls how calls
for a high level independent inquiry which have been issued
repeatedly by human rights organisations have been rejected.
Lord Eric Avebury, in the second foreword, describes the work
as 'the first comprehensive study of the phenomenon in any language'
and adds that ‘the atrocities of the last seven years cannot
simply be forgotten and swept under the carpet’.
The book is a collective effort by about twenty researchers
and the contributions fall into six self-contained parts.
I deals with the massacres and the victims.
In the first paper, Ah-Yahia Abdennour, the President of the
Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights, outlines the
context in which the massive human rights violations occur.
In the second paper the anatomy of the massacres is examined
through an analysis of 622 selective and random mass victimisation
cases involving 10,758 deaths.
A statistical approach is employed in the analysis of the
data and the results are illustrated graphically.
The resulting distributions of the mass victimisation as
functions of time, geography and political loyalties reveal
disturbing regularities which defy die official and received version
The third paper is a collection of first hand testimonies by
survivors and relatives of victims which provide a vivid reminder of
the pain, suffering and agony which were inflicted on the victims.
The last contribution in this part is a report on the
Serkadji prison massacre compiled by lawyers, families of victims,
detainees and human rights workers.
II is devoted to a survey and a critical analysis of the questions
pertaining to the intents and identity of the perpetrators involved
in the massacres. The various theories suggested to explain the mass
victimisation, namely: i) Islamist punitive mass murders, ii)
counterinsurgency tactics, iii) instruments in interfactional
rivalry within the military institution, iv) land eviction methods
by the speculative mafia and v) tribal feuds and social criminality,
are rigorously tested in their fitting capacity for the available
data and factual events.
The intents which violate and best fit the data are
A study on the identify of the GIA (Armed Islamic Group) is
also presented and die contradictory views surrounding its actual
identify are extensively discussed.
III deals with the national responses to the mass victimisation. It
surveys the terrain in which the Algerian nightmare plays itself.
There are players and supporters with no referees to
arbitrate a deadly game. One paper looks at the responses of the
Algerian government and the ways it handles national and
international questions about its responsibility.
Another paper examines the reactions of the military and its
The behaviour and discourse of the Algerian diplomacy in its
endeavour to forestall international scrutiny of the mass murders
are analysed in a separate paper.
Another paper focuses exclusively on the attitude of the
Algerian diplomacy against the international human rights NGOS.
The reactions of the Islamic parties as well as those of the
insurgents groups are addressed in one contribution.
Another one deals specifically with the responses of the
other political parties, political and intellectual figures and
national NGOS. The role and responsibility of the press are also
included in a last paper.
In all instances, the reactions are found to correlate
strongly with predisposed loyalties and vested interests.
IV addresses the response of the international community as
represented by states, international organisations and concerned
These are bystanders since they are not directly affected by
the crimes but which nevertheless can have decisive influence on the
course of events.
The reactions of France are given prominence owing to the
special influence that this country still has on Algeria.
The reactions of the European Union, die US, the Arab and
Muslim world and the UN are also examined.
The role of international oil companies and multinational
firms as active bystanders is also highlighted.
V deals with mass victimisation in Algeria's recent colonial and
The main massacres that took place under French occupation
during the period from 1830 to 1962 are narrated.
As in the present day massacres, the civilian population bore
the brunt of the actions of a conquering power with technological
superiority, strong avidity for land and plenty of zeal for a 'mission
The intents behind the massacres, ie. i) land eviction
instruments ii) demonstration of absolute power and disproportionate
retaliation, iii) counterinsurgency strategy and iv) collective
punishments, are discussed. Massacres have also been committed by
Algerians against their fellow citizens either during the liberation
war (Mellouza massacre) or after independence (October 1988).
The recall of such atrocities inflicted on the civilian
population helps to understand why the civilian population is again
the victim of such victimisation.
VI is a legal perspective on the mass victimisation.
The first paper examines the legal status of acts of
massacres in Algeria's national law.
The latter is designed to protect the regime in power and not
society as it draws inspiration from the colonial criminal law whose
chief concern was the repression of the nationalist movement.
The current law does not provide for the prosecution and
punishment of the mass victimisation perpetrators.
In the second paper arguments are marshalled for the present
massacres to qualify for war crimes, crimes against humanity and
The last paper deals with investigation, prosecution and
book ends by a photographic account of the massacres.
The pictures of victims, survivors and distressed relatives
are poignant and illustrate a savagery beyond imagination.
The victims are helpless poor civilians who are caught in a
conflict whose strategic goals are beyond their comprehension.
They pay the price of an evil intent whatever that may be.
book is a valuable contribution to an understanding of the terrible
events that have ravaged Algeria.
It is a rich source of information for academics, human
rights workers, social scientists, politicians, journalists and
|Author: Islamic Party
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