The report, "Death Penalty Worldwide: Developments in 2002," said that 1,526 people were known to be executed in 31 countries in 2002. China, Iran and the United States accounted for 81 percent of all executions.
The worldwide total is down from 3,048 executions in 2001, mainly because of a sharp drop in Chinese executions. Amnesty counted 2,468 executions in China in 2001. The total fell to 1,060 in 2002.
China implemented a "strike hard" policy in 2001 that imposed death sentences on people convicted of lesser crimes and resulted in a surge in executions, according to Amnesty spokesman Alistair Hodgett.
Iran had the second-most executions last year, 113, followed by the United States with 71, according to the report. The U.S. total was an increase of five from the previous year.
Cyprus, Serbia and Montenegro abolished capital punishment, while Turkey abolished the death penalty in practice, according to the report.
Last year, the United States was the only known country to execute people who committed crimes as juveniles.
"This blight on our country's human rights record belies our claim to be an international human rights defender," said William F. Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the three people put to death for juvenile crimes were:
But under Texas law, the three were not considered as juveniles. Texas considers 16-year-olds as adults, and in that state a person convicted of capital murder can get the death penalty for a crime committed at age 17.
The Supreme Court last year barred the execution of mentally retarded killers as unconstitutional but is sharply split over whether states should be allowed to use capital punishment for people who were juveniles when they committed their crimes. Four justices have called the executions "shameful," but they do not have a fifth vote to stop them.
By Laurie Kellman