WASHINGTON – Paul Aussaresses, a French Army general who in the final years of his life dispassionately revealed the torture techniques he employed during the Algerian war for independence and defended them as appropriate in the age of terrorism, has died. He was 95.
Aussaresses was described as a hero of World War II and fought in the French Indochina War before being posted to Algeria at the outset of the anticolonial rebellion there in 1954. The war and its prosecution remain the subject of intense soul-searching in France.
Aussaresses was chief of French military intelligence during the Battle of Algiers, the uprising in the Algerian capital in 1956 and 1957. Working under French Gen. Jacques Massu, he helped put down the guerrillas, who had been radicalized by past abuses perpetrated by their colonial rulers.
In 2001, he made international headlines with the publication in France of a memoir detailing the torture and summary executions in which he had taken part. “The methods I used were always the same: beatings, electric shocks, and, in particular, water torture, which was the most dangerous technique for the prisoner,” Aussaresses wrote. “It never lasted for more than one hour and the suspects would speak in the hope of saving their own lives.”
He wrote that he was “indifferent” to the executions of his adversaries and that some deaths were concealed as suicides. He contended that French government officials, including then-justice minister and future President Francois Mitterrand, were aware of and condoned the use of torture in Algeria.