From an address given by Jimmy Carter at the presentation of the Carter-Menil Human Rights Foundation Prize on Dec. 10, 1987:

South Africa should be high on our agenda for the new year. . . .

Present and former world leaders should join in a solemn effort to stop the widespread practice of torture and forced disappearances. As a first step, the United States and all other nations should ratify the U.N. and OAS treaties outlawing torture. International organizations of lawyers and medical doctors should commit themselves to exposing and stamping out these crimes about which some of their fellow practitioners almost always have special knowledge.

We need closer coordination among nongovernmental human rights organizations and the national and international groups that share the same purposes. People of all ages should be educated about the vital subject of human rights. The inseparable link between human suffering and wars of revolution must be more clearly understood.

As the most powerful and influential country on earth, the United States has a special responsibility. Ours should be the highest of all standards. Our voice and our example reverberate throughout the world. And so does silence from Washington. This silence is what oppressors desire and what victims fear most. Jacobo Timerman, who was one of the courageous survivors of persecution in Argentina, said: "What there was, from the start, was the great silence -- that silence which can transform any nation into an accomplice."

We must not be accomplices of those who commit human rights crimes. The time is ripe for more courageous action to mitigate the suffering of those who still cry out to us in pain.