Robert Badinter, who won the fight to end the death penalty in France, dies at the age of 95

Robert Badinter, the French lawyer and former justice minister who led the fight to abolish the death penalty in France and became one of the country’s most respected intellectual figures, died early Friday. He was 95 years old.

His spokeswoman, Audi Napoli, confirmed his death.

President Emmanuel Macron said: “Robert Badinter never stopped defending the Enlightenment.” he wrote on social mediaHe praised him as “the personality of the century” who embodied “the French spirit.”

Mr. Badinter spent decades as a respected defense lawyer, but is best known for enacting the 1981 law that abolished the death penalty in France, one of his first acts as justice minister in the Socialist government of President François Mitterrand.

“Tomorrow, thanks to you, justice in France will no longer be justice that kills,” Badinter told lawmakers in 1981. A fiery speech that lasts for hours Defending the law.

He achieved this in the face of broad public support for the death penalty at the time. The fight against the death penalty was at the heart of his ongoing defense of human rights against oppression and cruelty.

In his 1973 book The Execution, he vividly recalls the “sharp shock” of the guillotine blade when he witnessed the execution of one of his clients, a traumatic experience that he said prompted him to campaign against the death penalty. Decades later, in 2010 interview In the New York Times, he still referred to the guillotine as “my old enemy.”

Mr. Badinter was Minister of Justice from 1981 to 1986, then became President of the French Constitutional Council, a position he held for nine years. The Council is the institution that reviews laws to ensure their compliance with the Constitution. He also served in the Senate as a socialist legislator from 1995 to 2011, gradually becoming something of the conscience of the republic and a passionate defender of the rule of law.

“Deeply committed to justice, an abolitionist, a man of jurisprudence and passion, he leaves a void commensurate with his legacy: immeasurable,” said Eric Dupond-Moretti, France’s justice minister — and longtime defense lawyer. he said on social media.

Born in Paris to Jewish immigrants from Bessarabia, a region in Eastern Europe that now straddles Moldova and Ukraine, Badinter was raised to respect the liberal values ​​and tolerance of the French Republic.

But in 1943, when he was 15, his father Simon was deported from Lyon and never returned from the Nazi death camps. Several members of his family, including one of his grandmothers, were also killed by the Nazis.

The lesson Mr. Badinter learned was not that the promises of the Republic were empty, but that constant vigilance was needed to respect and defend them. France’s wartime Vichy government which cooperated with the Nazis in deporting Jews constituted high treason to the Republic.

A self-described “Republican, secularist, and Jew,” he carried within him for the rest of his long life the mark of losing his family in a moment of French betrayal.

“I am French, I am French Jew — the two cannot be separated,” he said in 2018. These are not just words, this is the lived reality.”

Badinter was particularly close to Mitterrand, and worked with him to reshape the Socialist Party as a center-left movement that abandoned mass nationalization of industries.

Mr. Mitterrand had gone to Mr. Badinter in 1984 to sign, in complete secrecy, the document in which the president recognized Mazarine Bengu, his daughter from an adulterous relationship.

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