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© Bundesregierung / The Federal Government
1936 – 
"Freedom and human rights are not set-in stone concepts. It is not enough to safeguard acquired rights. The Council of Europe must be the dynamic element in the fight for democracy in all our European societies."
Additional Protocol No. 6 to the Convention

Jürgen Schmude is a German lawyer and politician. A Social Democrat (SPD), he was Federal Minister of Justice of the FRG from January 22, 1981 to October 1, 1982 and was one of the main initiators of Protocol No. 6. He is part of a real trio of activists together with his colleagues: the Austrian Christian Broda and the French Robert Badinter. From 1983 to 1985, he was vice-chairman of the SPD parliamentary group. In May 1985, he was elected Chairman of the EKD Synod, a position he held until 2003.

The German Evangelical Synod (Präses der Synode und Ratsmitglied der EKD - Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland) is the body where matters concerning the EKD are discussed. It makes decisions on church laws, in addition to discussing proposals from the Council and the Conference of Churches, as well as dealing with petitions. For this purpose, the Synod meets once a year for several days. The Synod is made up of 100 delegates from the regional churches and 20 members appointed for 6 years by the Council. The meetings are public and in this framework the issue of the death penalty and its abolition are discussed. The network of churches and the abolitionist issue is a broad field.

During the eleventh meeting of the Conference of European Ministers of Justice, held in Copenhagen on June 21 & 22, 1978 a note from the Austrian delegation was presented. Christian Broda launched this offensive by presenting a text based on the work of the association "Amnesty International".

« Christian Broda is the real father of the project. For symbolic, political and legal reasons, he was aiming at the adoption of a protocol that would obviously compel the European states, because he was aware that it could only be a European approach. He played a very active role within the Council of Europe in the field of human rights. It was he who wove the fabric of the protocol in the 1970s. He was not a philosopher, he was a politician, a jurist, he was not a theorist, but a politician and a militant. He wanted this convention precisely to make the abolition of the death penalty irreversible and common within the Council of Europe1. »

And it is alongside Broda that Jürgen Schmude fought for the full application of Article 3 of the ECHR, which "prohibits all forms of degrading treatment or punishment "2. Article 2 of the Convention still carried the threat of the death penalty and the execution of the sentence after due process. This was an exception, indeed an anomaly, not only in the context of Article 2 and in relation to the principles enshrined in Article 3, but also in the light of the reality of penal practice in Council of Europe member states, where this penalty had become very rare.

Jürgen Schmude's indispensable work was to call for what has become a new international - at least, Community - norm, and which makes Europe so special on the abolitionist subject. Protocol No. 6 to the ECHR concerning the abolition of the death penalty entered into force on March 1, 1985.

Jürgen Schmude has been a member of the German Ethics Council since 2005.

Marie Bardiaux-Vaïente

[1] Interview with Robert Badinter, December 5, 2011.
[2] Christian Broda, "Plea for the Abolition of the Death Penalty", op. cit., p. 11.

Rituals of retribution

Author: Richard J. Evans
Publication Date: 1996
Edited by: Penguin Uk

The ideals of the Enlightenment transformed execution from a "barbarous" public spectacle into a far more impersonal, "civilized" process. Yet moves towards the complete abolition of the death penalty ground to a halt in 1870, with the creation of Bismarck's Empire. The Weimar Republic virtually abolished capital punishment - and then gave way to the Nazi bloodbath. It was not until 1949 that executions were outlawed in West Germany; in the Communist East they continued into the 1980s. A history of capital punishment in Germany since the 17th century, this text is an exploration of German society as shown in attitudes to and use of the death penalty. A far more central issue here than in most states, it examines the development of capital punishment in Germany from early modern times to the Third Reich and its two successor states.

The last execution

Directed by: Franziska Stünkel
Genre : Drama
Release date: 2021

Inspired by a true story, that of Werner Teske, the last prisoner executed in the former GDR, The Last Execution is a gripping historical drama.

East Berlin, capital of the communist GDR, in 1981. Franz Walter, an ambitious scientist, is recruited by the dreaded Stasi, the state's secret service. He is quickly disillusioned by the less than stellar missions he is given. Inspired by the true story of Dr. Werner Teske, the last person to be executed in the GDR, the story explores the inhumanity of a dictatorship ready to do anything to make its citizens fall in line. If the film lacks rhythm, the historical evocation remains no less gripping, as the noose tightens around a man condemned in advance.

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