The massacre of October 17, 1961 of several dozen Algerians had been reported to the Head of State, Charles de Gaulle, who nevertheless kept in office the prefect Maurice Papon and the ministers responsible, according to declassified archives published Monday by Mediapart. On October 17, 1961, some 30,000 Algerians demonstrated peacefully at the call of the FLN against the curfew imposed on them. The French presidency acknowledged in October 2021 for the first time that “nearly 12,000 Algerians were arrested and transferred to sorting centers at the Coubertin stadium, the Sports Palace and other places. Besides many wounded, several dozen were killed, their bodies thrown into the Seine.
On October 16, on the occasion of a ceremony for the fiftieth anniversary of the massacre, Emmanuel Macron had acknowledged, in a press release, “inexcusable crimes” committed “under the authority of Maurice Papon”. In the declassified archives, Mediapart found a note dated October 28, 1961, written by General de Gaulle’s adviser for Algerian affairs, Bernard Tricot. He tells the President of the Republic that “there would be 54 dead”. “Some would have been drowned, others strangled, still others shot. Judicial proceedings have been opened. It is unfortunately likely that these investigations may result in some police officers being implicated, ”explains the senior official.
In a second note dated November 6, 1961, Bernard Tricot exposed Charles de Gaulle to a “question of governmental order”: “Knowing whether we will limit ourselves to letting affairs take their course, in which case it is probable that they will bog down, or if the Minister of Justice (Bernard Chenot, Ed) and the Minister of the Interior (Roger Frey, Ed) should let the magistrates and officers of the competent judicial police know that the government wants the light be shed. “It seems very important that the government take a position in this matter which, while seeking to avoid as much scandal as possible, shows all concerned that certain things ought not to be done and that we don’t let them,” he continues.
The note, found in the National Archives after it was declassified last December, bears General de Gaulle’s handwritten response: “We must shed light and prosecute the culprits” and “The Minister of the Interior must take view the police with an attitude of authority, which he does not take”. No proceedings against the police have ever been launched. Interior Ministers Roger Frey and Justice Bernard Chenot were confirmed in their positions, as was Maurice Papon, who has always denied police violence. Maurice Papon was convicted in 1998 of complicity in crimes against humanity for his role in the deportation of Jews between 1942 and 1944.