“The United States has already lost its place as a leader of protecting people and their human rights,” Carter told the Human Rights Defenders Forum at The Carter Center in Atlanta on Tuesday.
As a superpower, the U.S. “should be the champion of human rights in the world,” Carter said, but he feared it had “already lost its long-time commitment” to the cause.
“We are not the superpower because we have the largest military on earth or because we have the strongest economy in the world,” said Carter. “We should be a superpower because we espouse things that are important to everyone on earth and I think human rights are one of them.”
Carter said the U.S. government’s “clamp down” on “the basic rights of our own people” following the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001 set a standard “that was emulated around the world.”
“We still have a chance to restore our position as the foremost champion of human rights, but we are not in that position at this moment,” Carter said. He warned that “if we retain our present position of indifference to human rights violations, we will encourage human rights violations to grow even more rapidly than they have been in the past few years.”
“We have abandoned our position as a government to be the champion of human rights,” he added.
Check out the remarks beginning at the 41-minute mark in the video above.