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Case in point | A once powerful weapon

Richard Easton looks at the legacy of notorious French 
advocate Jacques Vergès and his défense de rupture

20 September 2013

Most client-lawyer relationships are best summed up by Mr Schultz in Billy Bathgate: “I could tell you a lot about the law…we got a man to argue for me tomorrow who wouldn’t have me to dinner in his house.”

Notorious French advocate to (almost) indefensible defendants Jacques Vergès not only appeared happy to dine with his clients – who ranged from Nazis butcher of Lyon Klaus Barbie and Carlos the Jackal to Pol Pot – he also married one, the Algerian terrorist/freedom fighter Djamila Bouhired. Vergès’ death on 15 August brought to an end one of the 20th and 21st centuries’ most infamous legal lives. But is his bequest to law – the défense de rupture – a powerful weapon in lawfare or merely a damp squib? Can political trials still be fought by accusing one’s accusers?

Vergès pioneered the défense de rupture during the trial of Front de Libération ...

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