Throughout his career as an attorney, Vergès primarily took political cases, and his clients included both left and right-wing terrorists. He has defended the nazi criminal Klaus Barbie (1987), Ilich Ramirez Sanchez a.k.a. Carlos the Jackal (1994), the Kekal faction (1995), the Holocaust-denier Roger Gaurady (1996) and Slobodan Milosevic (2002).
Born in Thailand and brought up on the Réunion island, he was the son of Raymond Vergès, a French diplomat, and a Vietnamese woman. He joined the Communist party on Reunion and in 1942 he became part of the Free French Forces under Charles de Gaulle. After the war, while his brother Paul was imprisoned for murdering a political rival to their father, Jacques went to the Sorbonne to study law. In 1949 he 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 to Prague to lead a youth organization for four years.
Returning to France he became a attorney and sought controversial cases. During the struggle in Algiers he defended many accused of terrorism, with the goal of public attention, not legal victory. He also left the French Communist Party following their political move towards the Fourth Republic.
Vergès became a nationally-known figure following his defense of Djamila Bouhired, on terrorism charges. She was condemned to death but freed following public pressure and married Vergès. Vergès, himself was sentenced to sixty days in 1960 and lost his license to officially practice law for "anti-state activities".
Just out of prison he used his publicity tactics to defend the Jeanson network. It was during a ferocious cross examinations that Paul Teitgen, commander of the Algerian police, publicly admitted to the use of torture.
Following Algiers, Vergès moved onto Israel - he opposed Israel's existence as a base for neo-imperialism in the Middle East and when the wave of PFLP hijackings started in 1968 Vergès often appeared in court to defend them. Then from 1970-78 he disappeared from public view without explanation. He returned with the same anti-France and anti-Israel agenda as before, defending any terrorists with a political cause, almost all of whom were found guilty. As well as attacking governments in 1999 Vergès sued Amnesty International on behalf of the government of Togo.
Recently, after the US-led occupation forces invaded Iraq (March 2003), Vergès was asked to represent Tareq Aziz in court. On December 13, 2003, the United States arrested Saddam Hussein (Iraq's President since 1979). Jacques Vergès also offered to defend Saddam if he was asked to. "If I have to choose between defending the wolf or the dog, I choose the wolf, especially when he is bleeding".