Rupture Defense

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Background

A rupture defense, or rupture strategy, is a little used legal defense made famous by the defense lawyer Jacques Vergès [1] in which he accused the prosecution of the same offenses as the defendant in order to reframe the context of his client’s actions. In the French criminal proceedings against the suspected anti-French Algerian guerilla fighter Djamilla Bouhired, Vergès accused the French state prosecuting the case of crimes against humanity including unwanted colonial rule. As a result, Vergès claimed that the Algerian guerillas whom he was defending were not terrorists but in fact freedom fighters, struggling against the unlawful foreign rule of the French. Bouhired was condemned to death in the French proceedings, but Vergès boisterous claims, dedicated grandstanding and widespread publicity stunts lead to a public outcry demanding her pardon, which the state then granted.

The rupture defense operates by questioning the authority of the prosecuting tribunal or force itself. By casting doubt on the ability of the sovereign to prosecute the crimes of a defendant, the defense effectively shifts the inquiry away from the alleged criminal activity in a procedural move meant to destroy jurisdiction altogether. Vergès has characterized the rupture defense as a way to interrupt a trial by any means necessary. [2] A rupture defense is as much meant to cause delay or chaos in proceedings more than to actually put forward any legal justification or excuse for alleged criminal actions. Vergès recently employed the rupture tactic in the Cambodian tribunal’s prosecution of Khmer Rouge offenses by demanding the release of his client because most of the documents in the proceeding were not translated into French.


See Defenses

Notes

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Vergès
  2. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-23726329