Jacques Vergès

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Jacques Vergès is the controversial French lawyer, known for representing notorious crime figures such as Klaus Barbie and Carlos the Jackal, who may be representing Saddam Hussein. Vergès has already been asked to defend Iraq's former vice-premier Tareq Aziz. He has made it known that he is willing to defend Saddam Hussein and has said that he has received a letter from Saddam Hussein's nephew Ali Barzan al-Tikriti "officially commissioning" him to act on Saddam's behalf.

Known as the "quintessential devil's advocate" Vergès could prove to be very embarrassing to the Bush administration. In a recent 60 Minutes interview, he made it clear that members of the Bush administration, in particular current Secretary of the U.S. Department of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, would be called on to testify and held accountable for giving aid and support to Saddam during the height of Saddam's atrocities. "This mass destructive weapons were sold to Iraqi government by the United States. And Mr. Rumsfeld has been one of the man responsible for this sale, for this bargain, for this market," says Verges, who calls Rumsfeld a "traveling salesman" for toxins and poisons. [1]

Vergès expressed concern that the United States might try to kill Saddam before a trial could be held. "I have this fear," says Verges. "I am not sure. If I express my fear, it's precisely to avoid this."[2] In a French television interview Verges said "urgent measures were required to protect Saddam" and it was reported he "produced a fiery criticism of the way his new client had been paraded on television shortly after his arrest in December, 'like a beast in a fairground,' saying this contravened the Geneva conventions on prisoners." Vergès indicated he would ask the International Red Cross to ensure respect for these conventions, and would also apply to the International Criminal Court on the matter.[3]

Whatever his other motivations, Vergès' role as a devil's advocate is an important one. Part of his role in defending such seemingly monstrous criminals is to ensure equal treatment before the law and to protect them from the lynch mob hysteria that these crimes tend to arouse. He also sees it as his responsibility to hold accountable parties who are accessories or who have committed what he considers equivalent crimes that are accepted by society. When Morley Safer asked him "Did you see a problem in defending a man who has been accused by many of his own people of killing up to 300,000 people?" he replied "That is a number which surprise me. Well, I know that 500,000 children died in Iraq because of the embargo." [4]

Colin Freeman of the Sofia Morning News reported on March 27, 2004 that "Badie Arief, an Iraqi lawyer who represents nearly half the country's 'Deck of Cards' most-wanted ex-regime members," will fly to Paris to meet Vergès and plot defense strategy.[5]

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