IRRC No. 883

Between insurgents and government: the International Committee of the Red Cross’s action in the Algerian War (1954–1962)

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The French government and an armed insurrectionary movement – the National Liberation Front (FLN) – confronted each other for over seven years in the Algerian War, which would become the archetype of wars of national liberation. It brought the new conditions of struggle in revolutionary warfare to a convulsive climax characterized by terrorist attacks, underground warfare, and repression. On the humanitarian front, the challenge of ensuring respect for humanitarian rules in asymmetric warfare was posed more bluntly than in any previous conflict. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) faced the triple challenge of offering its services to a government facing an armed insurgency that it claimed to be able to bring under control through police action alone, of entering into contact with a liberation movement, and of conducting a humanitarian action in the context of an insurrectionary war.

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