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Robert Badinter, French minister who ended the guillotine, dies at 95

Robert Badinter, the former justice minister who played a key role in abolishing the death penalty in France in 1981, has died at the age of 95.

Badinter saved many lives by dedicating his own to the fight against capital punishment.

The soft-spoken human rights lawyer, who said he could not abide by a "killer justice system", was widely vilified for pushing through legislation banning the death penalty at a time when a majority of French people still supported it.

"We entered the court by the front door, and once the verdict had been read and the accused's head was safe, we often had to leave by a hidden stairway," he recalled.

Badinter said later he had "never felt so lonely" in fighting capital punishment, which in France was carried out by beheading with the guillotine – a practice dating back to the French Revolution of 1789.

In years to come, however, he would be hailed for his integrity and statesmanship.

"Robert Badinter never stopped pleading for enlightenment," President Emmanuel Macron wrote on social media platform X.

"He was a person of the century, a man with a republican conscience and a spirit that was French."

'Cut in two'

The son of a Jewish fur trader who died in a Nazi death camp during World War II, Badinter built a reputation as a lawyer for defending – often successfully – notorious cases that his peers didn't dare touch.

"Guillotining is nothing less than taking a living man and cutting him in two," he argued.

(with newswires)


Read more on RFI English

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