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Robert Badinter

Robert Badinter during a demonstration against the death penalty in Paris, on 3 February 2007

Assumed office 
24 September 1995

In office
19 February 1986 – March 1995
Preceded by Daniel Mayer
Succeeded by Roland Dumas

In office
23 June 1981 – 19 February 1986
Preceded by Maurice Faure
Succeeded by Michel Crépeau

Born 30 March 1928 (1928-03-30) (age 81)
Paris, France
Nationality French
Political party French Socialist Party
Spouse(s) Élisabeth Badinter

Robert Badinter (born 30 March 1928 in Paris) is a high-profile French criminal lawyer, university professor and politician mainly known for his struggle against the death penalty. A member of the Socialist Party (PS), he served as Minister of Justice and then President of Constitutional Council under François Mitterrand.

He is currently a Senator for the Hauts-de-Seine département.


Political career


Death penalty

In 1965, along with Jean-Denis Bredin, Badinter founded the law firm Badinter, Bredin et partenaires (now known as Bredin Prat), where he practiced until 1981. Badinter's struggle 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. During the police storm, Buffet slit the throat of the hostages. Badinter was the attorney for Bontems, and although it was established during the trial that Buffet alone was the murderer, the jury still decided to sentence both men to death. Applying the death penalty to a person who had not killed outraged Badinter to the point that he dedicated himself to the abolition of the death penalty.

In this context, and as a lawyer, he accepted to defend Patrick Henry. In January 1976, 8-year old Philipe Bertrand was kidnapped. Patrick Henry was suspected very soon, but released because of a lack of proof. He gave interviews on television, saying that those who kidnapped and killed children deserved death. A few days later, he was again arrested, and shown young Philippe's corpse hidden in a blanket under his bed. Badinter and Robert Bocquillon defended Henry, making a case not in favour of Henry, but against the death penalty. The defence won, and Henry was sentenced to life imprisonment, though he was paroled in 2001.

The death penalty was again applied in France later on, but it became a public matter. Between 1976 and 1981, three people were executed.

Ministerial mandate (1981-1986)

In 1981, François Mitterrand was elected president, and Badinter became the Minister of Justice. Among his first actions was a bill to the French Parliament that abolished the death penalty for all crimes, which the Parliament voted after heated debate on 30 September, 1981.

During his mandate, he also passed several laws, such as:

  • Abolition of the "juridictions d'exception" ("exceptional trials"), like the Cour de Sûreté de l'État ("Security Court of the State") and the military tribunals in time of peace.
  • Consolidation of private liberties (such as the lowering of the age of consent for homosexual sex to that for heterosexual sex)
  • Improval of the Rights of Victims (any convicted person can make an appeal before the European Commission for Human Rights and the European Court for Human Rights)
  • Development of sentences without a loss of liberty (like general interest work for minor petty crimes)

He remained a minister until 18 February 1986.


From March 1986 to March 1995 he was president of the French Constitutional Council, and since the 24th of September 1995 he has been a senator for the Hauts-de-Seine département.

In 1991, he was appointed by the Council of Ministers of the European Community as a member of the Arbitration Commission of the Peace Conference on the former 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 advices on "major legal questions" arisen by the split of the SFRY.[1]

Recent times

He continues his struggle against the death penalty in China and the United States of America, petitioning officials and militating in the World Congress against Death Penalty.

In 1989, Robert Badinter participated to the famous French television program Apostrophes, devoted to human rights, in the presence of the 14th Dalaï Lama. Talking about the disappearance of the Tibetan culture in Tibet, Robert Badinter used the term "cultural genocide"[2] and lauded the exemplarity of the Tibetan nonviolent resistance.[3] Robert Badinter met the Dalai Lama many times, in particular in 1998 when he greeted the Dalai Lama as the "Champion of Human Rights"[4] and in 2008.[5]

He recently 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. Also, the geographic setting of Turkey makes it a bad candidate according to Badinter: "Why should Europe be neighbour with Georgia, Armenia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, the former Caucasus, that is, the most dangerous region of these times? Nothing in the project of the founding fathers foresaw such an extension, not to say expansion."

As a head of the Arbitration Commission he gained huge authority among Macedonians and other ethnic groups in Republic of Macedonia due to the fact that he recommended "that the use of the name `Macedonia' cannot therefore imply any territorial claim against another State" and, therefore, full recognition in 1992 [2]. Because of that, he was involved in drafting the so-called Ohrid Agreement in Republic of Macedonia. The principle in this agreement that ethnic related proposals in the national assembly (and later on in the city councils and other local government bodies) should be supported by a majority of both ethnic groups is often called the "Badinter principle".

A made-for-television film - L'Abolition (The Abolition) - was broadcast on the France 2 channel in two parts in January and February 2009 with Charles Berling in the role of Robert Badinter. The film focuses on Badinter's attempts to save the lives of both Roger Bontems and Patrick Henry and his fight to have the death penalty abolished in France.

In 2009, he expressed dismay at the lifting of the excommunication of controversial bishop Richard Williamson. [6]

World Justice Project

Robert Badinter serves as an Honorary Chair for the World Justice Project. The World Justice Project works to lead a global, multidisciplinary effort to strengthen the Rule of Law for the development of communities of opportunity and equity.[7]

Personal life

He is married to the feminist writer Élisabeth Badinter, the daughter of Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, the founder of Publicis.

Political career

President of the Constitutional Council of France : 1986-1995.

Governmental function

Minister of Justice : 1981-1986 (Resignation, became President of the Constitutional Council of France).

Electoral mandate

Senate of France

Senator of Hauts-de-Seine : Since 1995. Elected in 1995, reelected in 2004.


  • L'exécution (1973), about the trial of Claude Buffet and Roger Bontems
  • Condorcet, 1743-1794 (1988), co-authored with Élisabeth Badinter.
  • Une autre justice (1989)
  • Libres et égaux : L'émancipation des Juifs (1789-1791) (1989)
  • La prison républicaine, 1871-1914 (1992)
  • C.3.3 - Oscar Wilde ou l'injustice (1995)
  • Un antisémitisme ordinaire (1997)
  • L'abolition (2000), recounting his fight for the abolition of the death penalty in France
  • Une constitution européenne (2002)
  • Le rôle du juge dans la société moderne (2003)
  • Contre la peine de mort (2006)
  • Abolition: One Man's Battle Against the Death Penalty, English version of L'abolition translated by Jeremy Mercer (Northeastern University Press, 2008)
Political offices
Preceded by
Maurice Faure
Minister of Justice
Succeeded by
Michel Crépeau


  1. ^ Curriculum vitae of Robert Badinter on
  2. ^ Les droits de l'homme Apostrophes, A2 - 21/04/1989 - 01h25m56s, Web site of the INA
  3. ^ Badinter: "La non- violence tibétaine est exemplaire"
  4. ^ Greeting of Mr Robert Badinter and Statement of His Holiness at a public conference
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ Evêque négationniste : Robert Badinter s'indigne
  7. ^ "About". Retrieved 2010-02-23. 

External links


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