The United States must follow the lead of European countries and outlaw the death penalty, French Senator and former French Minister of Justice Robert Badinter said yesterday as he brought his crusade against capital punishment to Gaston Hall.

The 80-year-old outspoken critic of the death penalty and former minister responsible for its elimination in France outlined his opposition to capital punishment, noting that European nations are far ahead of the curve on this issue.

“Europe has freed itself completely of the death penalty. For men of my generation, this is a most remarkable moral progress,” he said.

Badinter said that one of the most significant points against the death penalty is its racial bias.

“Racial prejudice does exist,” he said. “In my country, the number of North African or colored people executed for the same crime was three times higher than for the others.”

According to a report from Amnesty International, 90 countries have abolished the death penalty, while 60 countries, including the United States, still use the death penalty. At least 24 countries executed people in 2007, with a majority of the executions in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United States.

In Islamic states with the death penalty, Badinter stressed that Muslims, not Western outsiders, are best suited to abolish the death penalty because they are more familiar with Islamic law and customs.

“The abolition of the death penalty in Muslim states should be carried out by Muslims,” he said.

Badinter continues to work toward abolishing the death penalty in China and the United States.

“Ninety percent of executions in the world are the practice of only a very few states. The first one, far ahead from the others, is China, which runs – like they do in the Olympics – ahead,” Badinter said.

His crusade against the death penalty first began in 1965 as a criminal lawyer in France defending Roger Bontems against a murder charge. Bontems was an inmate at Clairvaux Prison in 1971 when he and Claude Buffet led a revolt. Bontems took a nurse and a prison guard hostage and Buffet killed both when the police raided the prison. While it was determined in the court that Bontems was not the murderer, he was still sentenced to death. Outraged by the decision, Badinter decided to dedicate himself to abolishing the death penalty.

Badinter served as Minister of Justice for France from 1981 to 1986 and introduced legislation that abolished the death penalty in the country. From 1986 to1995, he served as the president of the French Constitutional Council, the highest constitutional authority in France.

He is currently serving a term as French senator for the Socialist Party.

The senator concluded his address by assessing the future of the death penalty in the United States.

“When it comes to [the] death penalty of the United States, I am thoroughly optimistic,” he said, noting that the number of executions in the past eight years has dropped by 50 percent.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.