France considers pardons for World War I deserters

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A report requested by France’s Ministry of Veteran Affairs recommends that French soldiers who were executed by their own side during World War I should have their records reassessed.

France 24 reports that a document delivered to France’s Ministry of Veteran Affairs on Tuesday has suggested the country officially review the history of World War I soldiers who refused to fight and were executed as an example for other troops.

‘There is a large consensus in our society that the majority of them were not cowards, but decent soldiers, who performed their duties and did not deserve to die,’ the report read.

Between 600 and 650 French soldiers were executed by their own side after disobeying orders from commanding officers, while around 100 others were put to death for espionage and other crimes.

The report recommended a ‘formal declaration’ by the state with perhaps a subsequent educational programme to clear the soldiers’ names.

‘To declare that these soldiers also, in a certain way, “died protecting France”, would serve as a sort of moral and civic pardon,’ the report concluded.

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