Skip to content Skip to footer




© Rob Croes / Anefo
1928 – 2007
"Society cannot, under the pretext of self-defence, even whilst enshrined in the law, dispose of the life of a human being."
Report of the commission chaired by Thorn

Gaston Thorn, member of the Democratic Party (DP), was Prime Minister from June 15, 1974 to July 16, 1979. He also held high office at the European level, as a member of the European Parliament from 1959 to 1969, but it is especially for his position as President of the European Commission, from January 6, 1981 toJanuary 5,1985 that he is best known and recognised. Later, he became President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, the only Luxembourger to have headed this organisation. In 1974, he was appointed head of the Luxembourg government, the first politician to hold this office who was not a member of the Christian Social Party since the Second World War. He initiated significant legislative reforms: decriminalisation of adultery, legalisation of divorce, lowering of the age of majority to 18 and, not least, the abolition of the death penalty. The death penalty, provided for in the 1879 Penal Code, was almost never carried out in the Grand Duchy. A pardon was almost always granted, and the punishment was then commuted to life imprisonment. It was against this background that a ministerial decree dated October 23? 1974 set up a special commission to prepare reforms to abolish the death penalty:

"The draft bill prepared by this commission provides that ″the death penalty shall be abolished in all matters and replaced by the next lower penalty″.

The Commission's arguments are as follows:

- "It is obvious that every democratic State has the right and duty to defend itself. However, the Society cannot, under the pretext of self-defence, even legally, dispose of the life of a human being.
- Even allowing for the fact that all statistics are open to interpretation, the fact remains that all foreign experience proves that the ultimate punishment is not effective as a deterrent and that, consequently, capital punishment must be regarded as unnecessary, unless one accepts the unworthy reasoning that the maintenance of a prisoner costs society more than his execution.
- The death penalty is the only penalty that is irreparable. Any other miscarriage of justice can be redressed and repaired, at least partially. This is not the case if an innocent person has been executed.
- The ultimate punishment is profoundly unjust, insofar as it is too dependent either on a certain era or on public opinion, which is itself essentially fluctuating.
- Finally, the death penalty is unworthy of a state that calls itself democratic. The abolition that has been possible in fifteen member countries of the Council of Europe should also be possible in the Grand Duchy.
For the majority of the Commission, Luxembourg does not intend to be the last of these countries to keep the supreme punishment in its arsenal of penalties.”

On May 17, 1979 the House of Representatives voted to abolish capital punishment. Robert Krieps (1922-1990), socialist (LSAP1), Minister of Justice from 1974 to 1979 under the Thorn government, tabled the bill in the House.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I ask you to abolish the death penalty..."

Under the terms of the law of June 20, 1979 "the death penalty is abolished in all cases and replaced by the next lower penalty...". This law was adopted by 32 votes to 14. The abolition in all circumstances. No distinction is made between wartime and peacetime.

On November 20, 1984, Luxembourg ratified Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 1 of this protocol states that "The death penalty shall be abolished. No one shall be condemned to such a penalty or executed". The Constitution of Luxembourg of October 17, 1868 was amended on April 29, 1999. In its Chapter II entitled "Luxembourgers and their rights", the Constitution now states in Article 18 that "The death penalty may not be reinstated.

Marie Bardiaux-Vaïente

[1] Lëtzebuerger Sozialistesch Aarbechterpartei, Socialist Worker Party Luxembourger.

Death penalty, beyond abolition

Authors: Robert Badinter, Hugo Adam Bedau, Peter Hodgkinson, Roger Hood, Anne Ferrazzini and Michel Forst, Eric Prokosch, H.C Krüger, Anatoli Pristavkine, C. Ravaud, Sir Nigel Rodley, Renate Wohlwend, Yoshihiro Yasuda
Publication Date: 2004
Edited by: Council of Europe

Europe is today the only region in the world where the death penalty has been almost completely abolished. In the Council of Europe's 45 member states, including the European Union's 15 member states and its 13 candidate countries, capital punishment is no longer applied.

The Council of Europe played a pioneering role in the battle for abolition, believing that the death penalty has no place in democratic societies under any circumstances. This determination to eradicate the death penalty was reflected in Protocol No.6 to the European Convention on Human Rights, on the abolition of the death penalty in peacetime, which was adopted in April 1983, then in Protocol No.13 on the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances, adopted in May 2002.

Introduced by Roger Hood, an international expert on death penalty legislation, this book reviews the long and sometimes tortuous path to abolition in Europe. It also addresses the tangible problems which countries face once the death penalty has been abolished, and related issues: the situation of murder victims' families and alternatives to capital punishment, particularly the choice of a substitute sentence.

The Council of Europe's campaign for abolition is currently being pursued beyond Europe's borders, in those states which have Observer status with the organisation, particularly the United States and Japan: the situation in these countries is discussed here.

This publication will be of interest to all those who feel concerned by this issue, particularly members of NGOs, lawyers, officials in departments dealing with legal and criminal affairs, and human rights campaigners.

Crime & Punishment

Directed by: Patrick Ridremont
Genre : Drama
Release date: 2012

Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is a state-sanctioned practice of killing a person as a punishment for a crime. The sentence ordering for an offender is to be punished in such a manner is known as a death sentence, and the act of carrying out the sentence is known as an execution.

Share on

Contact us

Ensemble contre la peine de mort (Together Against the Death Penalty)
62bis Avenue Parmentier
75011 Paris

Tel: + (33) 1 57 63 03 57

Fax: + (33) 1 80 87 70 46



With financial support from:

In partnership with:

The ideas and views presented on this website should not be taken to reflect the official position of the funding partners.