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Robert Badinter

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Robert Badinter
Badinter in 2013
In office
24 September 1995 – 30 September 2011
Preceded byFrançoise Seligmann
Succeeded byPhilippe Kaltenbach
President of the Constitutional Council
In office
4 March 1986 – 4 March 1995
Appointed byFrançois Mitterrand
Preceded byDaniel Mayer
Succeeded byRoland Dumas
Minister of Justice
In office
23 June 1981 – 19 February 1986
PresidentFrançois Mitterrand
Prime MinisterPierre Mauroy
Preceded byMaurice Faure
Succeeded byMichel Crépeau
Personal details
Born(1928-03-30)30 March 1928
Paris, France
Died9 February 2024(2024-02-09) (aged 95)
Paris, France[1]
Political partySocialist Party
SpouseÉlisabeth Badinter
Alma materUniversity of Paris (LLB)
Columbia University (MA)
OccupationLawyer, professor, politician, activist

Robert Badinter (French pronunciation: [ʁɔbɛʁ badɛ̃tɛʁ]; 30 March 1928 – 9 February 2024) was a French lawyer, politician, and author who enacted the abolition of the death penalty in France in 1981, while serving as Minister of Justice under François Mitterrand. He also served in high-level appointed positions with national and international bodies working for justice and the rule of law.

Early life[edit]

Robert Badinter was born on 30 March 1928, in Paris to Simon Badinter and Charlotte Rosenberg.[2] His Bessarabian Jewish family had immigrated to France in 1921 to escape pogroms. During World War II, after the Nazi occupation of Paris, his family sought refuge in Lyon. His father was captured in the 1943 Rue Sainte-Catherine Roundup and deported with other Jews to the Sobibor extermination camp, where he was murdered shortly thereafter.[3]

Badinter graduated in law from Paris Law Faculty of the University of Paris. He then went to the United States to continue his studies at Columbia University in New York City, where he got his MA. He continued his studies again at the Sorbonne until 1954.[4] In 1965, Badinter was appointed a professor at University of Sorbonne. He continued as an Emeritus professor until 1996.[5]

Political career[edit]


Badinter started his career in Paris in 1951, as a lawyer working with Henri Torrès.[6] In 1965, along with Jean-Denis Bredin, he founded the law firm Badinter, Bredin et partenaires, (now Bredin Prat)[7][8] where he practiced law until 1981.

The Bontems case[edit]

Badinter's activism against the death penalty began after Roger Bontems's execution on 28 November 1972. Along with Claude Buffet, Bontems had taken a prison guard and a nurse hostage during the 1971 revolt in Clairvaux Prison. While the police were storming the building, Buffet slit the hostages' throats. The jury sentenced both men to death. Badinter served as defense counsel for Bontems and was outraged by the sentence. After witnessing the executions, Badinter dedicated himself to the abolition of the death penalty.[9]

Death penalty[edit]

In this context, he agreed to defend Patrick Henry.[10] In January 1976, eight-year-old Philippe Bertrand was kidnapped. Henry was soon picked up as a suspect, but released because of a lack of evidence. He gave interviews on television, saying that those who kidnapped and killed children deserved death. A few days later, he was arrested again and shown Bertrand's corpse hidden in a blanket under his bed. Badinter and Robert Bocquillon defended Henry, making the case not about Henry's guilt, but against applying the death penalty. Henry was sentenced to life imprisonment and died months after a compassionate release from prison in 2017 (after receiving parole in 2001, revoked in 2002).[11] The lenient verdict came as a shock, with several publications having already called the outcome as a virtual certainty for execution; according to speculative sources, the critical vote on the death sentence failing by a seven-to-five vote majority.[12][13] The case of Jerome Carrein, condemned 15 days after Henry's sentence for the murder of a child, was widely dubbed the "revenge of the guillotine".[14][15] Until the execution of Gary Gilmore in Utah on 17 January, three days before Henry's verdict, France was the only Western liberal democracy actively performing executions.

Despite president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's modernist outlook and stated opposition to the guillotine, a further three executions took place during this period, of Christian Ranucci in July 1976, Carrein in June 1977, and Hamida Djandoubi in September 1977. Badinter took no part in arguing either case.[16][17] However, 63% of French voters supported keeping the death penalty at the time it was abolished.[18] In 1980-81, Badinter defended Philippe Maurice, whose sentence of death was confirmed by the superior court in March 1981, weeks before the election of abolitionist François Mitterrand to President.[18][19] A further eight sentences of death were issued before the bill of abolition was passed by the French parliament in September (the last only two days before the Senate voted) but none reached stage of execution and were converted by the abolition act.[20][21] Maurice's sentence, after lobbying from Badinter, was commuted by Mitterrand on May 25, among Mitterrand's first acts as president.[17]

Ministerial mandate (1981–1986)[edit]

In 1981, François Mitterrand, a self-professed opponent of the death penalty, was elected president and Badinter was appointed as Minister of Justice. Among his first actions was to introduce a bill to Parliament proposing the abolition of the death penalty for all crimes, both civilian and military. The bill was passed by the Senate after heated debate on 30 September 1981. On 9 October the law was officially enacted, ending capital punishment in France.[22]

During his mandate, he also helped abolish "juridictions d'exception" ("special courts"), such as the Cour de Sûreté de l'État ("State Security Court [fr]") and the military courts,[23] and improved the rights of victims of crime.[23]

He remained a minister until February 1986.[24]


Badinter in 2007

From March 1986 to March 1995, he was president of the French Constitutional Council. From 1995 to 2011, he served as a senator, representing the Hauts-de-Seine département.[25]

In 1989, he participated in an edition of the Antenne 2 talk show Apostrophes devoted to human rights, together with the 14th Dalai Lama. Discussing the disappearance of Tibetan culture from Tibet, Badinter used the term "cultural genocide".[26] He praised the example of Tibetan nonviolent resistance.[27] Badinter met with the Dalai Lama many times, in particular in 1998 when he greeted him as the "Champion of Human Rights",[28] and again in 2008.[29]

In 1991, Badinter was appointed by the Council of Ministers of the European Community as a member of the Arbitration Commission of the Peace Conference on Yugoslavia. He was elected as president of the commission by the four other members, all presidents of constitutional courts in the European Community. The Arbitration Commission has rendered eleven pieces of advice regarding "major legal questions" arising from the split of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.[30]

Badinter was the first president of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) following its creation in 1995; he served in that position until 2013.[31]

Badinter opposed the accession of Turkey to the European Union, on the grounds that Turkey might not be able to follow the rules of the Union. He was also concerned about the nation's location, saying: "We'll have, we Europeans, common borders with Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Iraq and Syria. I am asking you: What justifies our common borders with these countries? What justifies that we'd get involved in the most dangerous areas of the world?"[32]

As a head of the Arbitration Commission, he gained high respect among Macedonians and other ethnic groups in the Republic of Macedonia because he recommended "that the use of the name 'Macedonia' cannot therefore imply any territorial claim against another State". He supported full recognition of the republic in 1992.[33] He was involved in drafting the so-called Ohrid Agreement in the Republic of Macedonia.[34] This agreement was based on the principle that ethnic-related proposals passed by the national assembly (and later to be applied to actions of city councils and other local government bodies) should be supported by a double majority of both Macedonian and Albanian ethnic groups. This is often called the "Badinter principle".[34][35]

In 2009, Badinter expressed dismay at the Pope's lifting of the excommunication of controversial English Catholic bishop Richard Williamson, who had expressed Holocaust denial and was illegally consecrated a bishop.[36] The Pope reactivated the excommunication later.[37]

Badinter was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 2009.[38]

World Justice Project[edit]

Badinter served as an Honorary Co-Chair for the World Justice Project. It works to lead a global, multidisciplinary effort to strengthen the rule of law for the development of communities of opportunity and equity.[39]

Case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn[edit]

At the start of the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn in 2011, in which the IMF Managing Director was accused of rape and was arrested by the police in New York City, Robert Badinter reacted by saying to France Inter that he was outraged by the "media killing" and denounced the "failure of an entire system" inherent in the perp walk of Strauss-Kahn, a suspect, but also of the media judging an assumed culprit's guilt for charges that had not initiated a trial, and which were eventually dismissed.[40][41][42][43] Strauss-Kahn had been a favoured Socialist candidate for the presidential election the following April, but dropped all pretences of running after his arrest.

Personal life and death[edit]

Badinter married philosopher and feminist writer Élisabeth Bleustein-Blanchet, daughter of Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, who was the founder of Publicis, a multinational advertising and public relations company. He died in Paris during the night of 8 to 9 February 2024, at the age of 95.[44][1] President Macron later announced Badinter would be honored with burial in the Panthéon.[45][46]


Badinter refused any honorary distinction from the National Order of the Legion of Honor (as did his wife) and the Ordre National du Mérite. He nevertheless received foreign decorations, notably the Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk (Czech Republic) in 2001.[47] and the Order 8-September (North Macedonia) in 2006.[48] As a longstanding activist for the abolition of the death penalty, Robert Badinter was appointed an honorary member of the International Commission Against the Death Penalty.[4] He was awarded the International Abolition Award by Death Penalty Focus in 2023.[49]

Summary of political career[edit]

Political appointments:
  • President of the Constitutional Council: 1986–1995.
  • Minister of Justice: 1981–1986 (resigned upon appointment as president of the Constitutional Council).
Elected office:


  • L'exécution (1973), about the trial of Claude Buffet and Roger Bontems[51]
  • Condorcet, 1743–1794 (1988), co-authored with Élisabeth Badinter.[52]
  • Une autre justice (1989)[53]
  • Libres et égaux : L'émancipation des Juifs (1789–1791) (1989)[54]
  • La prison républicaine, 1871–1914 (1992)[53]
  • Un antisémitisme ordinaire (1997)[55]
  • L'abolition (2000), recounting his fight for the abolition of the death penalty in France[24]
  • Une constitution européenne (2002)[56]
  • Le rôle du juge dans la société moderne (2003)[53]
  • Contre la peine de mort (2006)[24]
  • Les épines et les roses (2011), on his failures and successes as Minister of Justice[57]


  1. ^ a b Robert Badinter est mort Archived 9 February 2024 at the Wayback Machine (in French)
  2. ^ "20ème anniversaire de l'abolition de la peine de mort en France: Robert Badinter, repères biographiques" [20th anniversary of the abolition of the death penalty in France: biography of Robert Badinter]. www.senat.fr (in French). Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  3. ^ Ivry, Benjamin (1 July 2010). "Robert Badinter, Defender of Life and Liberty". Archived from the original on 24 September 2020. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  4. ^ a b "Robert Badinter – International Commission Against the Death Penalty". Archived from the original on 2 February 2021. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  5. ^ "Robert Badinter : biographie, actualités et émissions France Culture". France Culture. Archived from the original on 15 October 2019. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  6. ^ "Robert Badinter". www.fayard.fr. 31 March 2021. Archived from the original on 15 October 2019. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  7. ^ "Robert Badinter: "The right to life is the most fundamental human right"". Ensemble contre la peine de mort. 18 June 2016. Archived from the original on 14 June 2022. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  8. ^ "Best Friends" Archived 16 November 2017 at the Wayback Machine, bredinprat
  9. ^ "Robert Badinter, the lawyer who fought to end the death penalty in France". France 24. 9 October 2021. Archived from the original on 30 January 2023. Retrieved 30 January 2023.
  10. ^ "Paying the life penalty". the Guardian. 10 October 2002. Archived from the original on 30 January 2023. Retrieved 30 January 2023.
  11. ^ Devin, Willy Le. "Patrick Henry, un prisonnier condamné pour l'éternité". Libération (in French). Archived from the original on 30 January 2023. Retrieved 30 January 2023.
  12. ^ "Les six". Le Monde.fr (in French). 19 September 1981. Retrieved 23 February 2024.
  13. ^ Vimont, Jean-Claude (20 February 2014). "Un ado condamné à mort en 1975. L'affaire Bruno T. au milieu des années soixante-dix". Criminocorpus. Revue d'Histoire de la justice, des crimes et des peines (in French). doi:10.4000/criminocorpus.2673. ISSN 2108-6907.
  14. ^ "L'affaire Carrein ou «la revanche de la guillotine»". leparisien.fr (in French). 21 January 2018. Retrieved 23 February 2024.
  15. ^ "Guillotining of a Killer In France Denounced". The New York Times. 24 June 1977. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 23 February 2024.
  16. ^ Willsher, Kim (3 December 2020). "Valéry Giscard d'Estaing obituary". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 27 October 2023. Retrieved 13 February 2024.
  17. ^ a b Edward Cody (17 September 1981). "France Will Retire Its Guillotine and Abolish the Death Penalty". The Washington Post.
  18. ^ a b Carolyn Hoyle (14 February 2024). "The DPRU honours Robert Badinter (1928–2024)". Death Penalty Research Unit.
  19. ^ BARRAUD, Par Jeanne (9 February 2024). "Robert Badinter l'a sauvé, voici l'histoire du dernier condamné à mort français, devenu historien - Edition du soir Ouest-France - 09/02/2024". Ouest-France.fr (in French). Retrieved 23 February 2024.
  20. ^ lemonde.fr/archives/article/1981/09/19/les-six_2714985_1819218.html
  21. ^ http://cewamale.free.fr/Geneami/condamnations.html
  22. ^ "Fighting to end death penalty worldwide 40 years after its abolition in France". RFI. 16 September 2021. Archived from the original on 30 January 2023. Retrieved 30 January 2023.
  23. ^ a b "EUROPEAN HUMAN RIGHTS PRIZE". Council of Europe. 9 January 1989. p. 9. Retrieved 11 February 2024.
  24. ^ a b c Rogoff, Martin A. (2008). Badinter, Robert (ed.). "For the Abolition of the Death Penalty in America: The Advocacy of Robert Badinter". Human Rights Quarterly. 30 (3): 772–796. doi:10.1353/hrq.0.0023. ISSN 0275-0392. JSTOR 20072868. S2CID 145617278.
  25. ^ Robert Badinter Archived 26 March 2022 at the Wayback Machine, senat.fr
  26. ^ Les droits de l'homme Apostrophes, A2 – 21 April 1989 – 01h25m56s Archived 28 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Web site of the INA
  27. ^ Badinter: "La non- violence tibétaine est exemplaire" Archived 5 February 2011 at the Wayback Machine, lexpress.fr; accessed 12 March 2017.
  28. ^ "Letter December 98". www.tibet.fr. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 30 January 2009.
  29. ^ "Badinter and Dalai Lama" Archived 22 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Nouvel Observateur; accessed 12 March 2017.
  30. ^ Curriculum vitae of Robert Badinter Archived 20 April 2019 at the Wayback Machine, un.org; accessed 12 March 2017.
  31. ^ "Robert Badinter – First President of the Court (1995–2013)". OSCE. Archived from the original on 24 November 2022. Retrieved 24 November 2022.
  32. ^ Fleishman, Jeffrey (16 December 2004). "Turkey Is Knocking, but EU Is Hesitating". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 6 May 2021. Retrieved 12 February 2024.
  33. ^ "Recognition of States: Annex 3". 15 February 2005. Archived from the original on 15 February 2005.
  34. ^ a b Reka, Blerim (1 January 2014). "The Ohrid Peace Process: The Past, the Present, and the Future Perspective". Comparative Southeast European Studies. 62 (1): 19–33. doi:10.1515/soeu-2014-620103. ISSN 2701-8202.
  35. ^ Navari, Cornelia (2014). "Territoriality, self-determination and Crimea after Badinter". International Affairs. 90 (6): 1299–1318. doi:10.1111/1468-2346.12171. ISSN 0020-5850. JSTOR 24538667.
  36. ^ "Evêque négationniste : Robert Badinter s'indigne". L'Obs. Archived from the original on 15 July 2012.
  37. ^ "Scomunicato il vescovo negazionista monsignor Williamson". Il Giornale (in Italian). 20 March 2015. Archived from the original on 10 January 2024. Retrieved 30 June 2021.
  38. ^ "APS Member History". search.amphilsoc.org. Archived from the original on 23 April 2021. Retrieved 23 April 2021.
  39. ^ "About". Archived from the original on 3 February 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2010.
  40. ^ Williams, Matt (10 December 2012). "Dominique Strauss-Kahn settles sexual assault case with hotel maid". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 26 January 2022. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  41. ^ "Perp walk? Blame Giuliani". Reuters. Archived from the original on 12 May 2021. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  42. ^ Rieff, David (17 May 2011). "An Indefensible Defense". The New Republic. Archived from the original on 12 May 2021. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  43. ^ Reddy, Sudeep. "Strauss-Kahn Resigns From IMF". WSJ. Retrieved 23 February 2024.
  44. ^ "Décès de Robert Badinter". Gouvernement.fr. 9 February 2024. Archived from the original on 10 February 2024. Retrieved 9 February 2024.
  45. ^ "France pays tribute to Badinter, ex-justice minister who fought to abolish death penalty". France 24. 14 February 2024. Retrieved 14 February 2024.
  46. ^ "France pays tribute to Badinter, minister who won fight to end death penalty". RFI. 14 February 2024. Retrieved 14 February 2024.
  47. ^ "Seznam vyznamenaných". Archived from the original on 9 November 2017. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  48. ^ "Hungarian PM Gets Macedonia's Top Award". Archived from the original on 30 April 2021. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  49. ^ Delucco, Mary Kate (9 February 2024). ""The death penalty must disappear from the entire world as it is a shame for humanity."". Death Penalty FOCUS. Retrieved 3 March 2024.
  50. ^ "BADINTER Robert". Sénat (in French). 11 February 2024. Archived from the original on 21 October 2023. Retrieved 12 February 2024.
  51. ^ Cohen, Roger; Breeden, Aurelien (9 February 2024). "Robert Badinter, Who Won Fight to End Death Penalty in France, Dies at 95". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 12 February 2024. Retrieved 12 February 2024.
  52. ^ McClellan, James E. (October 1990). "ELISABETH BADINTER and ROBERT BADINTER. Condorcet (1743–1794): Un Intellectuel en politique. Paris: Fayard. 1988. Pp. 658. 140 fr". The American Historical Review. doi:10.1086/ahr/95.4.1207. ISSN 1937-5239.
  53. ^ a b c "Disparition de Robert Badinter". Gazette du Palais (in French). 23 June 1981. Retrieved 12 February 2024.
  54. ^ Sibelman, Simon P. (1990). "Review of Libres et éqaux: l'émancipation des Juifs, 1789–1791". The French Review. 64 (1): 184–186. ISSN 0016-111X. JSTOR 395705.
  55. ^ Simonin, Anne (1997). "Review of Un antisémitisme ordinaire. Vichy et les avocats juifs (1940–944)". Le Mouvement Social (180): 226–229. doi:10.2307/3779372. ISSN 0027-2671. JSTOR 3779372.
  56. ^ Badinter, Robert; Garapon, Antoine; Padis, Marc-Olivier (2003). "Une constitution pour l'Europe: Entretien avec Robert Badinter". Esprit. 291 (1): 33–41. ISSN 0014-0759. JSTOR 24469869.
  57. ^ "Robert Badinter: quand la droite fustigeait la nomination de "l'avocat des assassins"". Vanity Fair (in French). 9 February 2024. Retrieved 12 February 2024.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Justice
Succeeded by
Legal offices
Preceded by President of the Constitutional Council
Succeeded by