Jacques Vergès is the central figure of the defense system set up for Algerian nationalists and the “rupture strategy” that he embodies is considered as part of the heritage left by the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962). Based on the history of judicial repression and interviews with the attorneys involved at the time, this article wishes to suggest that such a presentation should be nuanced for two main reasons. First, the important character of judicial repression in Algeria in martial courts meant that the actions of the attorneys hired were not sufficient to ensure the defense of the nationalists. Secondly, in a revolutionary logic of solidarity with the FLN, the so-called “Vergès” action group organized a defense strategy that delved into legal resources and court trials as much as it used the communication facilities that its attorneys were allowed with prisoners. Prison walls had to be knocked down to allow jailed activists to continue fighting for independence. The use of political plea and “rupture strategy” must therefore be put in perspective and historical research should focus on the true conditions of defense in Algeria through the study of the history of local courts.
By Sylvie Thénault