The avatars of tennis woman Peng Shuai remind us of how certain authorities shamelessly sweep away oppositions. We take a look back at these missing people in history, from Raoul Wallenberg to Philippe de Dieuleveult and Mehdi Ben Barka.
Generally, the disappearance – temporary or not – of Chinese opponents arouses little emotion on the part of international chancelleries. This encourages Beijing in its attitude of indifference to respect for human rights. With tennis woman Peng Shuai, who accused a senior regime official of rape, it’s a little different. In the midst of Me Too and under pressure from several sports stars around the world, the authorities were forced to give signs of life to the person concerned. In the process, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on the international community not to “blame” this affair… without much success.
1945: the disappearance of Raoul Wallenberg
Beijing obviously does not have a monopoly on these disappearances, which suitably serve the interests of a regime. Throughout the twentieth century, between rising perils and the Cold War (among other hotbeds of tension), there were plenty of opportunities to want to eliminate opponents. Some files will never be clarified, while others, over time, have left glimpses of answers. Take the Raoul Wallenberg affair: in January 1945, this Swedish diplomat posted to Budapest suddenly disappeared from circulation; the man is no stranger after allowing thousands of Jews to escape deportation. Wallenberg’s last mentioned appointment dates back to January 16, 1945, his summons to the headquarters of the Red Army – which has just entered the Hungarian capital.
During the 1950s, the USSR admits the death of the diplomat, who allegedly suffered a “heart attack” at Lubyanka, the KGB prison in the heart of Moscow. In 2001, a Russian-Swedish commission of inquiry disputes the official version, but does not go much further. His conclusions are that the diplomat was kidnapped so that he could later serve as a bargaining chip; in 1945-1946, the return demanded several times by Moscow of several Soviet emigres having been refused by Stockholm, Wallenberg was condemned de facto. In the 2010s, the final investigations lead to the archives of Ivan Sverov, a former KGB official. It turns out that Stalin would have directly ordered the elimination of the prisoner, convinced – or convinced by others – that an heir to a large Scandinavian industrial family could only be a traitor to communism …
1965. The Ben Barka Affair
Western democracies can also be the plaything of dark affairs. In 2020, the health crisis prevented Bechir Ben Barka from organizing events to commemorate the centenary of the birth of his father, Mehdi Ben Barka. In France, a judicial investigation is still open, 55 years after the disappearance in Paris of the Third World leader, declared opponent of the King of Morocco Hassan II. The Ben Barka case remains a mystery, despite the 10,000-page file and several duly verified leads. Thus Ben Barka (whose body has never been found) was executed on French soil, most likely at the request of Hassan II himself and with the direct assistance of Mohamed Oufkir, his Minister of the Interior. But Moroccan services did not act alone. They have benefited from the complicity of French agents at several levels, rogue elements will say Paris, which will not prevent General de Gaulle from being appalled by so much sordidity and carelessness. Today, the Ben Barka family are desperate for archives to be opened on both sides of the Mediterranean.
1985. What happened to Philippe de Dieuleveult?
In 1985, an a priori disappearance far from geopolitical issues aroused great emotion. Philippe de Dieuleveult is a well-known television host, via the famous program La Chasse au trésor which transports the public across the world. On August 6, during a rafting trip on the Zaire River, Dieuleveult and his six companions were swept away by the waves. We will only find one body. After that? Then nothing more. Despite the research and the series of investigations that will lead to many books and documentaries, we will never know what happened to Philippe de Dieuleveult.
Accident and/or recklessness are obviously avenues considered – moreover favored by the initial, fragmented investigation – but another ends up resonating with intensity. It is now accepted that Dieuleveult was an agent of the DGSE (General Directorate of External Security). Published in 2008, an investigation by journalist Anna Miquel unearths a report of the host’s interrogation dated August 8, two days after her alleged drowning. As well as the testimony of former henchmen of President and dictator Joseph-Désiré Mobutu (1930-1997) according to which Philippe de Dieuleveult was indeed arrested and then executed.