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Capital punishment in Denmark (Danish: Dødsstraf) is entirely abolished under Danish law. The last remaining sections permitting capital punishment were eliminated from Danish law on 1 January 1994.


History until 1892

For the most part, Denmark followed the style of other European nations, with government-employed executioners, called "skarpretter" (headsman) in Denmark. The skarpretter had the status of a Royal government employee.

Jens Nielsen was the last man executed under the penal code. He was executed on 8 November 1892 in the courtyard of the State Prison of Horsens, after attempted murder of the prison-officer. He was beheaded with an axe.

The last public execution was conducted in 1882 on Lolland, when Anders Nielsen was executed. Both executions were conducted by Jens Carl Theodor Seistrup, the second-to-last executioner and the last actively to do executions for the Government of Denmark.

The last skarpretter in office was Carl Peter Hermann Christensen who held the position from 27 August 1906 until 1 April 1926. However, he never performed any executions.

The last time a death sentence was handed down in civil court was on 13 June 1928. However, the punishment was never carried out.

Abolishment in 1933

On 1 January 1933, Denmark abolished all capital punishment under the old penal code, when the new Danish Penal Code[1] automatically came into effect, entirely replacing the older code from 10 February 1866. Under military law, however, capital punishment still remained an option.

The post 1945 purges

After the occupation of Denmark, 3 special laws were enacted as amendments to the penal code [2], all having the option of capital punishment, related only to war crimes committed during World War II. These were Ex post facto laws and were part of the purges (Danish: Retsopgøret) attempting to feed the public cry for revenge.[3]

76 people received the death penalty under these laws and 46 of them were carried out, the last in June 1950. The 30 remaining were pardoned. The sentences were carried out by firing squads of 10 voluntary police officers, either in Undallslund Plantage (17), close to Viborg or on the military training grounds on Margretheholmen, near Christianshavn, Copenhagen (29).

Capital punishment in these laws (not the laws themselves) was eliminated on 1 January 1994.[4]

The 1952 act

In 1952 Denmark reinstated capital punishment in the penal code for crimes committed with particular malice during war or while committing high treason.[5] It was abolished again in 1978.[6] At the same time capital punishment was abolished in military law. No people were ever sentenced under this law.[7][8]


  1. ^ Law #126 encacted on 15 April 1930
  2. ^ The acts #259 enacted on 1 June 1945, #395 enacted on 12 July 1946 and #423 enacted on 7 October 1947
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ By act #1097 enacted 22 December 1993
  5. ^ Act #227 enacted 7 June 1952
  6. ^ By act #195 enacted on 3 May 1978
  7. ^ Hans Göran Franck (2003). The Barbaric Punishment: Abolishing the Death Penalty. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. ISBN 904112151X.  
  8. ^ Société Jean Bodin pour l'histoire comparative des institutions (1991). Punishment. De Boeck Université. ISBN 2804112322.  


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