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9 October 2009

On this day in history: France abolished death penalty, 1981

In March 1981, François Mitterrand [pictured] announced that his opposition to the death penalty while campaigning French Socialist Party presidential candidate. His party adopted the policy as 53rd proposition in its electoral programme, 110 Propositions pour la France ('110 Propositions for France'). In the second round of voting on 10th May, Mitterrand defeated the incumbent president, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, by the narrow margin of 3.52%.

In August the Council of Ministers approved the plan to abolish capital punishment in France. Robert Badinter, the Minister of Justice and campaigner against the death penalty, presented the bill to the Assemblée Nationale on 17th September. The next day the bill the assembly voted 363 to 117 to pass the bill.

The assembly rejected a number of amendments to the bill made by the Sénat (Senate of France), and both houses voted to pass the bill at the end of September. On 9th October 1981, the law was promulgated and France became the last western European nation to abandon capital punishment. Thus Hamida Djandoubi became the last person to be executed in France - guillotined at Baumettes Prison in Marseille on 10th September 1977 after being found guilty of torture and murder.

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