Robert Badinter, behind France's abolition of the death penalty, dies age 95

The 40th anniversary of the abolition of the death penalty in Paris

PARIS (Reuters) -Robert Badinter, a former Justice minister best known for abolishing the guillotine in France in 1981, died on Friday at age 95.

A lawyer and human rights activist, Badinter introduced major law reforms after Socialist Francois Mitterrand, a previous self-professed opponent of the death penalty, was elected president in May 1981 and made him justice minister.

Introducing a bill to abolish the guillotine was one of his first actions as justice minister.

Three people had been executed in France in 1976-1977 under the presidency of Mitterrand's conservative predecessor Valery Giscard d'Estaing.

After a heated debate in the Senate, the law abolishing the death penalty for all crimes, was officially enacted on Oct 9 1981.

"Lawyer, justice minister, the man who abolished the death penalty. Robert Badinter was always on the side on enlightenment. He was a figure of the century, a republican conscience, the French spirit," French President Emmanuel Macron said on X.

A Jewish intellectual, whose father died in a German concentration camp, Badinter was a target of hate for the French right, some of it tinged with anti-semitism.

In 1982, he instructed courts to crack down on organised crime and terrorism but avoid over-crowding prisons with minor offenders.

Between March 1986 - when Mitterrand's camp lost general elections to a conservative coalition led by Jacques Chirac - and March 1995, he was president of the Constitutional Council. He then served in the French Senate, between 1995 and 2011.

(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Tassilo Hummel, Ingrid Melander)