Robert Badinter, who helped abolish the death penalty in France, dies at 95

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Robert Badinter, who led the campaign to abolish the death penalty in France, campaigned against antisemitism and Holocaust denial, and led a European group dealing with the legal fallout from the breakup of Yugoslavia, has died. He was 95.

The French Ministry of Justice confirmed Mr Badinter’s death on February 9, without giving further details. The President of France, Emmanuel Macron, said that he was a “figure of the century” who “did not stop advocating for the ideals of the Enlightenment. “

A former lawyer and justice minister who was a passionate supporter of human rights, Mr Badinter was known for his ongoing drive to end capital punishment. He described seeing one of his clients lose his head to a guillotine, which was employed for executions in France during the 1970s.

As justice minister under then-President François Mitterrand, Mr Badinter overcame public opposition and won parliamentary support for the abolition of the death penalty in 1981.

Mr. Badinter was born into a Jewish family in Paris on March 30, 1928. He witnessed Nazi horrors as well as France collaborated with the Germans during World War II, and he lost his father at Sobibor, a Nazi death camp in occupied Poland, according to Macron’s office. As a lawyer, Mr. Badinter later made a notorious Holocaust denial in court.

Mr. Badinter went on to lead the French Constitution Comhairle, who was a senator for 16 years, and was seen as a moral compass for many in France for protecting human rights.

In 1991, Mr Badinter led a reconciliation body set up by the European Economic Community to provide legal advice to the Peace Conference on Yugoslavia after two of the country’s six republics – Slovenia and Croatia – declared independence. The Badinter Commission, as the group came to be known, was made up of the presidents of the constitutional courts of the member countries of the EEC, which was the predecessor of the European Union.

The Badinter Commission issued 15 legal opinions between 1991 and 1993, including one stating that the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had dissolved. That paved the way for international recognition of Slovenia and Croatia as sovereign countries in 1992.

The Badinter Commission also declared the borders between the former republics of Yugoslavia to be international borders between newly independent countries that could only be changed through diplomacy, and not by force. Despite the legal notices, wars escalated in the 1990s in Croatia and later in Bosnia and Kosovo, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives and displacing the greatest number of refugees in Europe since the Second World War.

Macron will lead a nationalist compliments to Mr. Badinter, the president’s office said.

Mr Badinter’s marriage to actress Anne Vernon ended in divorce. He was married to Elisabeth Badinter, a feminist philosopher, and had three children, but a complete list of survivors was not immediately available.

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