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Europe has seen autocratic or totalitarian regimes corrupting justice throughout the 20th century with people being executed for political reasons or without fair trial, resulting in strong opposition to the death penalty after World War II.
Western Germany forbade capital punishment after the war, just as Italy did. France, which gave the world the word guillotine, decapitated only a few people after WW II amid increasing public opposition.
"There will be no lasting peace either in the heart of individuals or in social customs until death is outlawed," French Literature Nobel Prize winner Albert Camus wrote in 1957 in an influential essay.
France's last execution now dates back almost 40 years. In Eastern Europe, the death penalty was abolished after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
An international AP poll in 2007 found that about 70 percent of those surveyed in the U.S. favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder. In Germany, Italy and Spain only about 30 percent did so.
Overall, experts say Europe's judicial system is more oriented toward rehabilitation, not punishment. That is also reflected in drastically lower incarceration rates: Across the EU, about 130 people per 100,000 inhabitants are behind bars compared to 920 in the U.S, according to EU and U.S. Justice Department figures.
The death penalty has been abolished or suspended in all developed economies, except for the U.S. and Japan. Execution rankings have routinely shown the U.S. in the unusual company of China, Iran, Saudi-Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.
Vietnam has faced a similar issue, finding it difficult to import execution drugs from Europe since it switched from firing squads to lethal injection in 2011 on humanitarian grounds.
The anti-capital punishment camp has also gained ground in the U.S.
The number of U.S. executions has declined in recent years — from a peak of 98 in 1999 to 39 last year. Some states have abolished the death penalty, and those that carry on find executions increasingly difficult to conduct because of the drug scarcity and doubts about how well they work.
Public support for capital punishment also appears to be retreating. Last year, 60 percent of Americans polled said they favor the death penalty for convicted murderers, the lowest level measured since 1972, according to Gallup.
To counter the drug shortages lawmakers in some death penalty states — Missouri, Virginia and Wyoming — are now considering bringing back execution methods such as firing squads, electrocutions and gas chambers.
There are still about 3,000 inmates on death row.