1959-French President Charles de Gaulle grants amnesty to 130 Algerians sentenced to death

January 13, 2023

Paris, France - June 12, 2015: memorial of Charles de Gaulle in Paris.

On January 13, 1959, French President Charles de Gaulle commuted the death sentence of over one hundred Algerian freedom fighters. This move was one of the French President’s first official acts after taking office less than a week earlier.

The French- Algerian War

Long after the Muslim and then Ottoman Empires took the region, the French landed in Algeria in 1830, beginning more than a century of French rule. Algeria gained independence from France in 1962, but not before a Civil War ravaged the country. Algerian freedom fighters were on one side, and the French governed Algerians on the other.

The war itself lasted seven years and involved a number of war crimes. Civilian massacres, rape and torture were common practices. Hostilities grew while international support for the war decreased as these crimes were uncovered.

Charles de Gaulle And the 5th French Republic

Upon being elected President of the Fifth French Republic, Charles de Gaulle found himself in an unprecedented place. Algerian fighters began to attack mainland France in the form of bombings and other terrorist attacks. De Gaulle knew he had to do something. He tried to initiate a series of negotiations with the Algerian force FLN in an attempt to bring peace between the nations and grant Algeria independence.

De Gaulle’s Amnesty Controversy

Algerian freedom fighters tried to get France to abandon Algeria, as many were caught and sentenced to the guillotine. In a strategic political move, de Gaulle granted amnesty to nearly 300 Algerian prisoners of war. However, his push for peace was met with a number of coup and death threats by his own party.

De Gaulle’s push toward amnesty has been further deemed controversial, as it is accused of poorly covering up France’s brutality in war and eventually leading to amnesty being granted for all French military men.






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