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On September 18, it will be forty years since the abolition of the death penalty was voted in France. On the occasion of this anniversary, the former Minister of Justice Robert Badinter, a central figure in this fight, delivered a vibrant plea for the universal abolition of the death penalty.
Forty years after his historic speech for the end of the death penalty in France, the former Minister of Justice Robert Badinter made, on Wednesday September 15, a vibrant plea for a “universal” abolition.
“I am sure that the movement towards abolition will continue, sooner or later it will triumph,” said Robert Badinter during a conference organized at the National Assembly for the 40e anniversary of the end of capital punishment.
In a speech lasting nearly half an hour, standing and without reading his notes, the former minister, aged 93, spoke to an audience of deputies, officials and representatives of civil society, who the applauded at length.
He wished to salute the memory of the then socialist president, François Mitterrand, elected on a program providing for this abolition, and his right-wing successor Jacques Chirac, who had it included in the Constitution.
“The progress of this cause has been beyond our expectations”
But Robert Badinter did not return much to his speech of September 17, 1981 at the Palais Bourbon, in front of a hemicycle which voted the following day for abolition by 363 votes against 117, preferring to be part of “a fight that is not over”.
Stressing that of the 198 United Nations states, three quarters had abolished the death penalty in law or in fact, he considered that “the progress of this cause has been beyond our expectations”.
However, “very powerful or fanatic” states continue to practice it, he said, citing China, Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. In the United States too, executions still take place, but “the march towards abolition is continuous”. In Europe, only Belarus has not yet removed it, which shows “the indissoluble link between dictatorship and the death penalty”, he pointed out.
Organized by the Paris Bar and the association Together against the death penalty (ECPM), this conference opened in the presence of the President of the National Assembly, Richard Ferrand, and the Minister of Justice, Éric Dupond-Moretti .
Referring to the trial of the attacks of November 13, 2015 held in Paris, Robert Badinter ruled that the death penalty would amount to “fighting terrorists with the weapons of terrorists”. “The death penalty would not be such as to push back those who would be ready to blow themselves up with their victims,” he argued.
Robert Badinter also underlined the need to reflect on “the functioning of our prison system”, and in particular on prison overcrowding, “which is particularly acute in our country”.