The head of Amnesty International USA urged death penalty opponents gathered in Salt Lake for a regional conference not to give up their commitment to end capital punishment.

"This world needs you," said John Healey, executive director of the national arm of the organization that won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1977. "It's a frightening world for tens of thousands of people."Healey, who began his own battle against the death penalty as a Catholic priest, promised participants at the Western Regional Conference of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty that progress is being made.

He said Amnesty International has helped make human rights an international issue, noting that when world leaders discuss it, "it's people like you who put it on the table . . . they don't want to talk about it."

The death penalty, too, is a human rights issue, Healey said, advising the audience members not to be swayed by what he termed the emotional arguments of advocates.

"It's simple. The death penalty is simply wrong. It's a right to be alive and those on death row, although they are heinous killers - even the most heinous killers - they have a right to be alive," he said.

Opponents should also realize that by fighting the death penalty, they are living up to the desire of the nation's Founding Fathers to ensure "justice for all."

"If the Constitution does not protect people against execution, then it fails to protect all people," he said, calling for "better" U.S. Supreme Court Justices to interpret what he said was the true meaning of the document.

Another convincing argument against the death penalty, Healey said, is that it is not fairly applied. He said that the poor and minorities are most often sentenced to die.

That argument, he said, helped convince rock musician Bruce Springsteen to oppose the death penalty. Healey said that he and Springsteen talked during an Amnesty International rock music tour.