Friday, November 23, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Child of rape in Algeria declared war victim by French court

The Associated Press

PARIS — A man conceived in a rape by French soldiers during the Algerian independence war was declared a war victim yesterday and awarded damages.

An appeals court awarded Mohamed Garne, 41, a partial military pension for three years but denied his request for full lifetime benefits.

The decision was the first time a French court ruled that a person conceived as the result of a rape was a war victim, and it brought a formal closure to Garne's tortuous search for his identity.

Garne's mother, Kheira, was 16 when he was born. She gave him up at birth, and he was raised in orphanages. He located his mother in 1988 and took her to court in order to identify his father and legally use his name.

The mother initially told Garne he was the son of an Algerian killed during the war, but she broke down during a 1994 court appearance, saying he was conceived when she was raped by French soldiers. The origin of the name Garne was not clear.

"I am the first to have dared to defy the state," Garne said after the ruling. "I am not totally satisfied because I was not given a life pension, but it is important to have reopened the file on the Algerian war."

The brutal seven-year war ended with independence for France's North African colony in 1962.

A court had rejected a 1998 request by Garne for reparations.

But the appeals court accepted the argument that the fetus suffered from violence inflicted on the mother by French soldiers while she was pregnant and ruled that under the military pension system Garne was entitled to partial benefits for three years.

The mother alleged in the 1994 court appearance that the soldiers came back later and hit her stomach with electrical wires after learning she was pregnant.

In its decision, the court stressed its role was not "to rewrite history" but said the war led to "unspeakable acts" on both sides.

Passions remain high in France and Algeria over the 1954-62 war. While atrocities have long been said to have been widespread on both sides, there has been no official acknowledgment from the French government that abuses were committed by its soldiers.


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