List of Atrocities committed by France

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French military forces driving through a destroyed village during the Algerian War of Independence.

The French Republic have perpetrated numerous atrocities throughout its existence, ranging from war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated during wartime to human rights violations perpetrated in their former colonies throughout the world (particularly in Asia and Africa.)

Slavery in Haiti

During the French colonial rule of Haiti beginning in 1625, the economy of the country was based on slavery, and the practice there was regarded as the most brutal in the world. Over the French colony's hundred-year course, slavery killed about a million Africans, and thousands more chose suicide. Slaves newly arrived from Africa, particularly women, were especially likely to kill themselves; some thought that in death they could return home to Africa. 

Pregnant slaves usually did not survive long enough or have healthy enough pregnancies to birth live babies, but if they did, the children often died young.

Food was insufficient, and slaves were expected to grow and prepare it for themselves on top of their already crushing, 12-hour workdays. 

It was legal for a slaveholder to kill a slave who hit a white person, according to the 1685 Code Noir, a decree by the French king Louis XIV regulating practices of slaves and slavers.

Torture of slaves was routine; they were whipped, burned, buried alive, restrained and allowed to be bitten by swarms of insects, mutilated, raped, and had limbs amputated. Slaves caught eating the sugar cane would be forced to wear tin muzzles in the fields.

Carib Expulsion

The Carib Expulsion was the French-led ethnic cleansing that removed most of the Carib population in 1660 from Martinique. This followed the French invasion in 1635 and its conquest of the people on the Caribbean island that made it part of the French West Indies.

The Reign of Terror

The Reign of Terror from 1793 to 1794 was considered to be the most violent and repressive period of the French Revolution. Following the creation of the First French Republic, a series of massacres and numerous public executions took place in response to revolutionary fervour, anticlerical sentiment, and spurious accusations of treason by de facto French leader Maximilien Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety. By the time of Robespierre's downfall in July 1794, 16,594 official death sentences had been dispensed throughout France since June 1793, of which 2,639 were in Paris alone; and an additional 10,000 died in prison, without trial, or under both of these circumstances.

Conquest of Algeria

After discussions between the ruler of the Ottoman regency of Algiers and the French consul, France put up a naval blockade and a subsequent invasion towards Algeria (at that time part of the Ottoman Empire), as part of its colonialist campaign in Africa. During the conquest, the French murdered, repressed and starved Algerian civilians, having killed between 500,000 and 1 million Algerians, considering it a genocide.

6 February 1934 crisis

The 6 February 1934 crisis was an anti-parliamentarist street demonstration in Paris organized by multiple far-right leagues that culminated in a riot on the Place de la Concorde, near the seat of the French National Assembly. The police shot and killed 15 demonstrators. It was one of the major political crises during the Third Republic (1870–1940). Frenchmen on the left feared it was an attempt to organize a fascist coup d'état

The Vichy France regime

The Vichy France regime lead by Philippe Pétain from 1940 to 1944 was a client state of Nazi Germany and carried out the Holocaust in France. French police were ordered to round up Jews and other "undesirables" such as communists and political refugees; at least 72,500 were killed.


Marocchinate (Italian for "Moroccans' deeds") is a term applied to the mass rape and killings committed during World War II after the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy. These were committed mainly by the Moroccan Goumiers, colonial troops of the French Expeditionary Corps (FEC), commanded by General Alphonse Juin, and mostly targeted civilian women and girls (as well as a few men and boys) in the rural area between Naples and Rome, traditionally known in Italian as Ciociaria.

First Indochina War

During the First Indochina War, French forces used POW camps where Viet Minh rebels were tortured. The French also controlled the illegal drug trade in the Indochina region during the First Indochina War.

Bamileke War

During the colonial war in Cameroon, the French committed numerous human rights violations. As tensions heightened, the French quickly tried to retain order in the area. They brought in a lieutenant colonel, Jean Lamberton, from French Indochina to lead these efforts. From December 9, 1957, through 1958, Lamberton enacted what was known was the Cameroon Pacification Zone (ZoPac). In this zone, locals were placed into camps and surveilled by the colonial army. The culmination of this pacification program was Um Nyobe's assassination by the French in September 1958.

Algerian War of Independence

France perpetrated numerous atrocities during the Algerian War of Independence from 1954 to 1962. During the war, the French incarcerated whole populations of villages who were suspected to have supported the rebel National Liberation Front (FLN) in concentration camps. Torture was also very widespread and was a favorite method used by the French.

Disappearance of Mehdi Ben Barka

Mehdi Ben Barbara, head of the left-wing Moroccan National Union of Popular Forces (UNPF) and secretary of the Tricontinental Conference, was abducted ("disappeared") in Paris by French policemen and never seen again. On 29 December 1975, Time magazine published an article titled "The Murder of Mehdi Ben Barka", stating that three Moroccan agents were responsible for the death of Ben Barka, one of them former Interior Minister Mohamed Oufkir. Speculation persists as to CIA involvement. French intelligence agents and the Israeli Mossad were also involved, according to the article. According to Tad Szulc, Israeli involvement was in the wake of the successful Moroccan-Israeli collaboration in the 1961–64 Operation Yachin; he claims that Meir Amit located Ben Barka, whereupon Mossad agents persuaded him to come to Paris where he was to be arrested by the French police.

Activities of Bob Denard

Mercenary Bob Denard operated in numerous parts of Africa (as well as portions of the Middle East) on behalf of the French secret service as part of the Françafrique policy. These included perpetrating war crimes, acts of sabotage, and revolutionary terror. Having served with the French Navy in the Algerian War, the ardently anti-communist Denard took part in the Katanga secession effort in the 1960s and subsequently operated in many African countries including Congo, Angola, Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe), and Gabon.

Between 1975 and 1995, he participated in four coup attempts in the Comoro Islands. It is widely believed that his adventures had the implicit support of the French state, even after the 1981 election of the French Socialist Party candidate, François Mitterrand, despite moderate changes in France's policy in Africa.

Activities in Chad

Alongside the United States, France was instrumental in bringing dictator Hissène Habré to power in Chad. In the summer of 1983, when Libya invaded northern Chad and threatened to topple Habré, France sent paratroops with air support, while the Reagan administration provided two AWACS electronic surveillance planes to coordinate air cover. By 1987 Muammar Gaddafi's forces had retreated.

Bombing of the Rainbow Warrior

The sinking of the Rainbow Warrior, codenamed Opération Satanique, was a bombing operation by the "action" branch of the French foreign intelligence services, the Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure (DGSE), carried out on 10 July 1985. During the operation, two operatives sank the flagship of the Greenpeace fleet, the Rainbow Warrior, at the Port of Auckland in New Zealand on its way to a protest against a planned French nuclear test in Moruroa. Fernando Pereira, a photographer, drowned on the sinking ship.

France initially denied responsibility, but two French agents were captured by New Zealand Police and charged with arson, conspiracy to commit arson, willful damage, and murder. The scandal resulted in the resignation of the French Defence Minister Charles Hernu, while the two agents pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were sentenced to ten years in prison. They spent a little over two years confined to the French island of Hao before being freed by the French government.

Several political figures, including then New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange, have referred to the bombing as an act of terrorism or state-sponsored terrorism.

Involvement in the Rwandan Genocide

France has been accused of not only being complicit in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, but actively funding and supporting the MRND-lead interim government (they had also supported President Juvénal Habyarimana during the civil war against the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front in the country for the past three years.)

This included evacuating multiple high-ranking government officials involved in planning and executing the genocide.

Opération Turquoise

Opération Turquoise was a French-led military operation under the mandate of the United Nations. According to the French government, the operation was undertaken in order to establish a safe zone, supposedly to protect civilians. However, it has been accused of actually being a failed attempt to prop up the genocidal Hutu regime and that its mandate undermined the UNAMIR.

The former Rwandan ambassador to France and co-founder of the RPF Jacques Bihozagara testified, "Operation Turquoise was aimed only at protecting genocide perpetrators, because the genocide continued even within the Turquoise zone." France has always denied any role in the killing.

Involvement in the Kosovo War

During the Kosovo War, the DGSE (France's external intelligence agency) played an active role in providing weapons training for the Kosovo Liberation Army. According to British wartime intercepts of Serbian military communication, DGSE officers took part in active fighting against Serbian forces. It was even revealed that several DGSE officers had been killed alongside KLA fighters in a Serbian ambush.

Deportation of Roma migrants from France

After two fatal incidents, President of France Nicolas Sarkozy vowed in July 2010 to evict at least half of the 539 Romani squatted land camps. The Government of France initiated a program to repatriate thousands of Romanian and Bulgarian Romani, as part of the crackdown. Between July and September 2010, at least 51 Romani camps were demolished, and France has repatriated at least 1,230 Romani to their countries of origin.