Obituary: Yves Jouffa

Click to follow
YVES JOUFFA began to practise as a lawyer immediately after the Second World War, and was a member of the Paris bar until his retirement in 1992. He was a specialist in the law concerning building and reconstruction. But his main preoccupation was with liberty and justice, both on behalf of the individual and of groups in society.

His experience of persecution was very personal. Jouffa's father had been an officer in the Tsarist army, who had deserted because he was fearful of anti-Semitism. He came to Paris and went into business, beginning as a shopkeeper. He lived in the 12th arrondissement which was crowded and without social distinction, and it was there that his son Yves was born in 1920. Yves Jouffa went to local schools and to the Lycee Rollin before becoming partially qualified as a lawyer at the Paris Faculty.

He served in the French army, was demobilised in 1940 and finished his legal training. But on 20 August 1941 he was arrested by the Vichy police because he was Jewish. He was one of 4,000 picked up on that day and taken to the camp at Drancy. This was an unfinished housing estate near the Le Bourget airport. It was opened specially to take in the prisoners from this particular round-up.

Conditions were atrocious. Prisoners slept 50 to a room and the camp was almost entirely lacking in water and electricity. But Jouffa became one of the leaders of the inmates and remained in touch with the survivors after the war. (He became the President of the association of those who had been imprisoned in Drancy).

The authorities released Jouffa in September 1942 and, refusing to go to Germany to work in labour camps, he joined a resistance unit in the Sarthe department, and during 1944 fought in Normandy.

After the war his political activities were not centred on personal ambition. He joined small, intellectual groups which had nothing in common with the Communists, since they opposed the tyrannical system of the Soviet Union, and little in common with the socialists, who were prepared to serve in any government.

As a lawyer Jouffa distinguished himself by his determined defence of individuals. In 1954 he was, along with Andre Breton, one of the committee who fought for the release from prison of Messali Hadj, the Algerian nationalist leader. In 1968 he defended the Trotskyist Alain Krivine, who had been imprisoned as the leader of the revolutionary Communist movement, and in 1969 argued successfully before the Conseil Constitutionnel that Krivine had the right to stand as a candidate in the 1969 Presidential elections.

In 1984 Jouffa became the President of the Ligue des droits de l'homme, a prestigious organisation been founded at the time of the Dreyfus affair, at the turn of the century. His activities were many and varied. He fought for the rights of immigrants and for the prosecution of the collaborator and war criminal Touvier. He fought for the rights of women and against the excessive powers of the police. He assisted in many reforms of the penal system.

Perhaps the organisation to which he was the most attached was the Committee for the Defence of the Memory of Racist and Anti-Semitic Persecutions.

Yves Jouffa, lawyer and human rights campaigner: born Paris 28 January 1920; twice married (two children); died Paris 13 January 1999.