From Algeria to Argentina
: The Transfer of the French Savoir-Faire in the Making of Official Torturers.

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis aims to bring new and systematic evidence concerning France’s involvement in the transformation of Argentinian war and security professionals into official torturers long after the tragedy of its own Algerian War in the 1950s: a bitter irony for a state that considers itself the ‘Pays des Droits de L’Homme.’ It seeks to analyse this deadly collaboration within a transnational state crime framework, asking how and why France became involved. Since the legal responsibility of a country involved in the exportation of expertise ends at the border of the importing country, states—such as France—are able to alternate between condemnation of governments on whose territory torture takes place and facilitation of torture abroad by transferring a warfare ideology
that justifies torture techniques. It follows that the institutionalisation of torture must be discussed in its international structural context.
Consequently, my research focuses on examining three alleged manifestations of the torturer: direct perpetrator (the individual torturer), institutional perpetrator (the state that prescribes torture), and transnational institutional perpetrator (that which exports its savoir-faire in torture). When torturers are not isolated individuals acting according to their personal whims, torture can become an institution, as it was the case in Algeria and in Argentina. Central to my argument is the view that an adequate explanation of torture perpetration requires looking beyond the level of the torture chamber, or even of
the states in which the torture is practised, and focusing attention on the wider political context in which it is embedded. This thesis will explore the utility of the concept of state crime for understanding and responding to the indirect use of torture by external nation states with a detailed examination of the exportation of torture techniques and training expertise as complicity in torture. The cooperation between France and Argentina provides a relevant case study in which to probe this transnational institutionalisation of torture. This enables us to understand how the regime of torture emerged in Argentina and the extent to which France played—paradoxically—a crucial role in it.
Date of Award2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorPenelope Green (Supervisor) & Leif Wenar (Supervisor)

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