ATLANTA -- Former President Jimmy Carter blasted the Reagan administration's record on human rights, saying its silence has encouraged dictators to torture and murder scores of political prisoners.
Carter, speaking at an Amnesty International conference on human rights at Emory University, hugged a survivor of a Cambodian prison camp before firing criticism at his successor's record on the issue he made a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy during his administration.
At one point, the former president's eyes glistened and his voice faltered as he talked of political imprisonment, torture and execution of people in southeast Asia, Africa and Central America.
'There's no way for us in this fat, rich, prosperous, safe country to realize the need throughout the world for a consistent human rights effort,' Carter said.
'I have to tell you in complete frankness that what these oppressors want, and what they are getting, is silence,' he said. 'The silence coming out of Washington these days, concerning these gross human rights violations, is very disturbing.
'Our own nation's approach now to civil rights at home and human rights abroad is both perplexing and, sometimes to me, downright embarassing.'
Carter said the genocide treaty, introduced by the U.N. to condemn any government's slaughter of its people, has languished in the Senate for 35 years, mainly because some Southern senators feel it might allow foreign governments interfere in domestic matters. Carter asked the Senate six years ago to ratify it but the present administration has not made the treaty one of its top diplomatic priorities.
'Because of the opposition of just a few dedicated and very powerful men in the Senate -- motivated either by racism or by hatred of the United Nations itself -- our country has still not joined a strong majority of other nations who have officially condemned mass murder of a people by its government,' Carter said.