Jacques Vergès, the Renegade, Dies.
The renegade Jacques Vergès died yesterday at 88 years old.
“The cause of death was a heart attack at around 8 p.m. as he was preparing to dine with friends, according to his publisher, Éditions Pierre-Guillaume de Roux. He died in the Parisian house where the Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire once lived, the publisher said in a statement.” (NYT)
He defended the Nazi Klaus Barbie, the “revolutionary” Carlos, Khieu Samphan of the Khmer Rouge but also members of the European left-wing movements (Red Army Faction, Action Directe), Lebanese activists Georges Ibrahim Abdallah and Anis Naccache the Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic etc.. He was also willing to defend Libyian leader Muammar Gaddafi.
We may also mention the Boulin family, the daughter of Marlon Brando, Captain Barril, the Moroccan gardener Omar Raddad, serial killer Charles Sobrhraj, African leaders etc.. Huffington Post (France).
In 1942 Vergès joined the Free French Forces under Charles de Gaulle, and participated in the anti-Nazi resistance. In 1945 he joined the French Communist Party. After the war Jacques went to the University of Paris to study law (his brother Paul Vergès went on to become the leader of the Reunionese Communist Party and Member of the European Parliament). In 1949 Jacques became president of the AEC (Association for Colonial Students), where he met and befriended Pol Pot. In 1950 at the request of his Communist mentors he went toPrague to lead a youth organization for four years.
During the struggle in Algiers he defended many accused of terrorism by the French government. He was a supporter of the Algerian armed independence struggle against France, comparing it to French armed resistance to the Nazi German occupation in the 1940s.
There is no mention in the English language Wikipedia article of ‘ Vergès’ role in creating the first pro-Maoist review in France, in the early 1960s.
The French version notes that Jacques Vergès left the PCF in 1967, becoming intensely involved in the Algerian war of national liberation. After independence he took Algerian nationality, and had a high post in the Foreign Ministry, while editing the FLN’s journal Révolution africaine.
Vergès met Mao Tsé-Tsoung in March 1963 and quickly took the side of the Maoists. He lost his functions in Algeria. In France anew in the same year he launched the glossy magazine, Révolution (Chinese financed) which was the first Maoist publication in France.
From 1970 to ’78, Vergès disappeared from public view without explanation. Verges refused to comment about those years remarking in an interview with Der Spiegel that “It’s highly amusing that no one, in our modern police state, can figure out where I was for almost 10 years”. Vergès was last seen on 24 February 1970. He left his famous wife, Djamila, and cut off all his ties, leaving friends and family to wonder if he had been killed. His whereabouts during these years have remained a mystery. Many of his close associates of the time assume that he was in Cambodia with the Khmer Rouge, a rumour Pol Pot (Brother #1) and Ieng Sary (Brother #2)[ both denied this. There have also been claims that Vergès was spotted in Paris as well as in Arab countries in the company of Palestinian militant groups.
Upon his return to normal life he resumed his legal practice, defending Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, convicted of terrorism, and Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie. The thrust of his defence in the latter case was that Barbie was being singled out for prosecution while the French state conveniently ignored other cases that qualified as crimes against humanity.
In 1999 Vergès sued Amnesty International on behalf of the government of Togo. In 2001, on behalf of Idriss Déby, president of Chad, Omar Bongo, president of Gabon, andDenis Sassou-Nguesso, head of the Republic of the Congo, he sued François-Xavier Verschave for his book Noir silence denouncing the crimes of the Françafrique on the charges of “offence toward a foreign state leader”. The attorney general observed how this crime recalled the lese majesty crime; the court thus deemed it contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, thus leading to Verschave’s acquittal.
After the US-led coalition forces invaded Iraq in March 2003 and deposed president Saddam Hussein, many former leaders in Saddam’s regime were arrested. In May 2008 Tariq Aziz assembled a team that included Vergès as well as four Italian and a French-Lebanese lawyers. In late 2003 when the United States arrested Saddam, Vergès also offered to defend Saddam if he was asked to. However, Saddam’s family opted not to use Vergès as part of his defense team instead first hiring a team of lawyers based out of Jordan then making Khalil al-Duleimi the sole legal counsel.
In April 2008 former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan made his first appearance at Cambodia’s genocide tribunal. Vergès is using the defense that while Samphan has never denied that many people in Cambodia were killed, as head of state, he was never directly responsible.
Le Monde today,
Vergès defended the associates of Carlos the ‘Jackal’, Bruno Breguet and Magdalena Kopp , charged with having transported explosives. He defended the Venezuelan terrorist himself, after having been approached by the Stasi, the east German Secret police in 1982. Carlos even told the judge he had chosen Vergès because he was “more dangerous” than him. The lawyer enjoyed the experience, “This is an extremely courteous man. These remarks are a homage. The battle of ideas is as dangerous as a battle using explosives.”
Le Monde cites his assessment of his career, “j’ai le culte de moi-même” – I have a cult of myself.