French President Emmanuel Macron announced a decision on Tuesday to speed up the declassification of secret documents related to Algeria’s 1954-62 independence war from France.
The move comes from a series of measures taken by Macron to unite France with its colonial past and address its brutal history with Algeria, which had been under French rule for 132 years until its independence in 1962.
The French Presidency said in a statement that archival services will now be allowed to use a new procedure to declassify documents from the 1970s and earlier that were previously kept secret for national security purposes. This includes archives related to the Algerian war, the statement said.
According to French law, the archives of almost all French states, including defense and security issues, should be made available to the public after 50 years, except for information that could jeopardize the security of certain people. Nevertheless, a complex and lengthy request process prevented researchers and academics from working with these archives.
The new procedure will “significantly reduce the delay”, said the French Presidency.
Broadening the opening of archives on the war was part of Macron’s commitments to reckon with France’s mistakes during colonial times in Algeria.
In 2018, Macron formally acknowledged responsibility for the French state at a dissident in Algeria, died in 1957, Maurice Audin, and acknowledged for the first time that the French military used systematic torture during the war.
Last week, Macron met four grandchildren of an Algerian independence fighter to tell them that Ali Boumendjel had been tortured and killed by French soldiers in 1957.
Macron also wants to honor Gisele Halimi, a French feminist who supported Algeria’s independence and condemned the French military’s use of torture during the war. He hopes to have her buried at the Pantheon monument in Paris, a resting place for some of France’s most prominent citizens.
Macron also plans to attend three memorial ceremonies next year, marking the 60th anniversary of the end of Algeria’s war for independence.