Majority in France favour return of the death penalty, survey

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Paris, Sept. 15, 2020 (dpa/Naija247news) Majority of people in France would support the return of the death penalty, a survey from the polling institute Ipsos showed on Tuesday.

Some 55 per cent of people surveyed agreed with the statement: “The death penalty should be brought back in France’’.

Support for the death penalty was strongest among followers of the right-wing populist National Rally, led by Marine Le Pen, with 85 per cent of those surveyed in favour.

Meanwhile, 71 per cent of supporters of the Conservative party, The Republicans, surveyed favoured bringing back the death penalty.

Ipsos questioned 1,030 people aged over 18 for the survey.

Capital punishment was abolished in France in 1981, with the last hanging taking place in 1977.

Capital punishment (French: peine de mort en France) is banned by Article 66-1 of the Constitution of the French Republic, voted as a constitutional amendment by the Congress of the French Parliament on Feb. 19, 2007.

The constitution simply stating “No one can be sentenced to the death penalty’’ (French: Nul ne peut être condamné à la peine de mort).

The death penalty was already declared illegal on Oct. 9, 1981 when President François Mitterrand signed a law prohibiting the judicial system from using it and commuting the sentences of the six people on death row to life imprisonment.

The last execution took place by guillotine, being the main legal method since the French Revolution; Hamida Djandoubi, a Tunisian citizen convicted of torture and murder on French soil, who was put to death in September 1977 in Marseille.

Major French death penalty abolitionists across time have included philosopher Voltaire; poet Victor Hugo; politicians Léon Gambetta, Jean Jaurès and Aristide Briand and writers Alphonse de Lamartine and Albert Camus.

In France, the end of the death penalty resulted from a top-down political process.

Robert Badinter, a criminal-justice lawyer nicknamed “Monsieur Abolition” for his activism, convinced Socialist Party leader, François Mitterand, to take up the cause in the lead-up to the 1981 presidential election.

Once victorious, Mitterand named Badinter minister of justice, and within five months pushed a successful vote on the issue through the legislature.

“Abolition was contingent on the actions of a select few elites on the political left,’’ Temkin wrote, who noted that the death penalty enjoyed wide popular support among the French people and the media.

These select elites framed the vote as a matter of principle rather than policy, as a choice about what to do with the worst criminals, those whose guilt was undoubted, who committed horrific crimes and who showed no signs of repentance or rehabilitation.

Subsequently, abolition was solidified when France signed international treaties that framed capital punishment as a human-rights violation.

“Today, abolition is a precondition for entering the European Union,’’ Temkin said, because secession from that body seems “unthinkable’’, that forecloses any possibility of the death penalty’s return.

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