Algeria 1960

A First-Hand Account of Torture

Translated: for by Mitch Abidor;
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The following letter was written from the Algiers prison to his lawyer by Omar Hamadi, an Algerian fighter who'd been captured and tortured.

December 5, 1960

Dear Maitre:

These few lines to sum up for you in a few words what happened at Berrouaghia and what happened during our absence.

We arrived June 20, 1959 and as is usual at Berrouaghia, as soon as we arrived the beatings began, and without reason. So here in detail is what happened to us, and what we saw since our arrival up to the day we attempted to escape. As soon as we arrived we were made to strip naked and all exposed to blows delivered by those who are used to doing this. A few days after this little “snack,” as it was called by a guard named Charlie Sandra, and he even said to us we'll bury you here 4 by 4 without your even knowing why. And then one day the brother of this guard, named Marcel Sandra, struck a brother who, suffering from lumbago, couldn’t walk he struck him with a rubber pipe that was full of steel. Charlie Sandra also struck a brother that was Hallain another torturer the brother’s name is Hazli Belkacem who had complained to Maitre Taveras Controller General during his inspection at Berrouaghia. Dear Maitre, I am only citing facts for which I have proof without counting the racial insults that are common currency among many guards. I can cite another case that happened to me whose story I'll cite. It was for a jar of water that I'd given a brother who didn’t have water we went to point this out we six prisoners and for this half-liter of water we were punished with 20 days in a cell each of us in a cell I'm not even talking about the bullying and blows of which we were the object.

You should know dear Maitre that the exotic name that should be given to this Central House of Berrouaghia is extermination house and nothing else. Dear Maitre, you should remember what this place was during the years ’44 and ’45 when from director to guards they were all tried for torturing, and unfortunately though some passed 2 and some 2 ½ years in prison after an amnesty decree they all resumed their posts and up to the present a certain Lanboreche [?] one of the heads of torturing is still at Berrouaghia.

Dear Maitre, the dignity of the human being among the servants of the colonialists especially at Berrouaghia where we can say that as far as we can judge doesn’t exist for they have no dignity, they are beings unworthy of the name they bear and they should be ashamed to be the representatives of this administration which only has the name.

I can also tell you that even here in the civil prison of Algiers there are guards unworthy of the name. For in the last fortnight incidents occurred that I have made known to you. A guard struck a sick man in bed. . Another slapped a brother because the latter asked for care prescribed by the doctor. Another, and this one went beyond the limits of humanity, he struck a young minor of 16 who because of this brutality and savagery had to be transferred to the infirmary. The delegate of the center had an interview with the director of the prison who found nothing better to say than that he should complain to higher authorities.

Dear Maitre, you see what we have come to in this 20th century where we have even gone beyond the atomic age.

In the hope, Dear Maitre, that you will support our complaints with the proper authorities and that our voices will be heard. I ask you to accept my respectful sentiments and my thanks in advance.