Emmanuel Macron’s declaration in September 2018 recognizing the State’s responsibility for the disappearance and death of Maurice Audin, a young Communist mathematician, tortured and murdered by the French army during the Battle of Algiers, was greeted with de strong expectations by the citizens involved for decades for the lifting of the leaden cover that covered his disappearance as well as those of thousands of other independence activists during the Algerian war. They were all the more encouraged in the sense that the President of the Republic, by this historic act which also recognized the existence of a “System” legally established to organize torture, kidnappings and disappearances, had made a point of handing this declaration in person to Josette Audin, widow of the member of the Algerian Communist Party and militant in favor of the independence of Algeria.
A page of more than sixty years of silence seemed to have been turned, which was to open a new era of “Truth” during this period, the presidential declaration explicitly stipulating the wish “That all State archives relating to those who disappeared from the Algerian war can be freely consulted and that a general exemption be instituted in this sense”.
A classification “set arbitrarily”
Three years later and two years after the disappearance of Josette Audin, a new wall was erected around the archives concerning the Algerian war, but also on other sensitive subjects such as the Occupation. Since January 2020, the general interministerial instruction n ° 1300 – IGI 1300 – has made essential archival funds almost completely or partially inaccessible for historians.
An appeal to the Council of State had been filed last September by the Association of French Archivists, the Association of Contemporary Historians of Higher Education and Research, the Josette-et-Maurice-Audin Association , as well as a group of archivists, jurists and historians in order to establish the illegality of this provision. A new appeal has just been initiated on January 15 by the same protagonists to denounce the new version of IGI 1300 published in mid-November, which, far from responding to their concerns, is making the situation worse. She indeed fixes “Arbitrarily the perimeter of defense secrecy by imposing the date of March 1934” and “Produces a category of non-communicable archives, in defiance of the law”, in the words of their January 17th press release.
Concretely, my doctoral students have not been able to work for a year. My research projects, I have to put them on hold. Raphaëlle Branch Historian
“This instruction produces an aberrant situation and increasingly hinders access to the archives”, explains historian Raphaëlle Branche. “The new version of IGI 1300 henceforth provides for the possibility of archives being classified ‘defense secret’ a posteriori without time limit or justification”, specifies the professor of contemporary history at the University of Paris-Nanterre. “Concretely, my students, my doctoral students have not been able to work for a year. My research projects, I have to put them on hold. I worked for a very long time under the derogatory system, today it’s even worse. “
However, the law provides that public archives whose communication would infringe the secrecy of National Defense become communicable after a period of fifty years.