Death of a student in Saint-Cyr in 2012: a colonel calls for the end of the “bahutage” as the trial begins

Saint-Cyr must “to abandon” these activities of “hazing” who “are useless in the progression, in the training of the officers and which unfortunately lead to deaths, as in the case of Jallal Hami”, Colonel Jacques Bessy estimated Monday, November 23 on franceinfo, while the trial of seven soldiers before the Rennes Criminal Court for “manslaughter” opens this Monday, eight years after the drowning of Second Lieutenant Jallal Hami, 24 years old , during an integration evening at the Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan school (Morbihan). The student had drowned on the night of October 29-30, 2012, while crossing a pond on an evening of “bahutage”, that is to say “transmission of the traditions of the school”. “In Saint-Cyr, we never thought about the purpose of traditions”, regretted Jacques Bessy, president of the Association for the Defense of Military Rights, which became a civil party.

franceinfo: What do you expect from this trial?

Jacques Bessy: I am of course waiting for the responsibilities to be well determined by the court, after a very long wait of eight years. Certainly the specialized jurisdiction was a little embarrassed to have to summon officers, to have to summon a general and senior officers. So we wasted a lot of time in this matter.

This word “bahutage”, for you, is it a hazing which does not say its name to Saint-Cyr?

Yes exactly. There must, of course, be traditions. This is very important in any civil, military, public or private institution. There are, in justice, solemn re-entry, swearing-in, in the army, there are taking of arms, etc. So, it’s very important, traditions. Except that in Saint-Cyr, we never thought about the purpose of traditions. Myself, 52 years ago, in 1968, I experienced this type of hazing. But these traditions, they must evolve according to a certain number of social criteria. When a tradition is no longer suited to the social context, it must be abandoned. And traditions must never infringe on the physical integrity and moral integrity of those concerned with the transmission of these traditions.

There had already been excesses when you were a student?

Yes, I had one evening when we took the promotion to the south of the camp, we did not know the topography of the place at all, there was no medical assistance, and a student became unwell. He was saved by a comrade who gave him heart massage. So there could have already been an accidental death at that time for lack of supervision, lack of medical support, lack of security measures. So this is nothing new. There are now ethics officers in companies and institutions. Have we thought about the purpose of these transmissions of traditions? We accept that our children are being killed in Afghanistan or in the Sahel, but the conditions in which the death of Jallal Hami took place are not acceptable, it is not tolerable.

Have things started to change since Jallal Hami’s death?

We do not know because the army did not communicate, Saint-Cyr did not communicate, Saint-Cyrienne [l’association d’élèves et d’anciens élèves de Saint-Cyr] don’t talk about it. So we do not know what is going on and it is quite regrettable. French citizens, who need the army, who need to be defended, need to know what’s going on in an officer school like Saint-Cyr. Have we heard of hazing activities at the National School of Magistrates, at the National School of Administration or at Polytechnique? There have never been such problems. So, Saint-Cyr must fall into line and explain what has been done to eliminate these activities which are useless in the progression, in the training of officers and which unfortunately lead to deaths, as in the case of Jallal Hami.

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