President Carter yesterday condemned Cambodia as "the worst violator of human rights in the world today," saying the government denies its people basic rights and dignities.
In a strongly worded statement issued by the White House, Carter said thousands of refugees have accused the regime of wrongdoing.
"America cannot avoid the responsibility to speak out in condemnation of the Cambodian government, the worst violator of human rights in the world today," he said.
Carter said the refugees have "recounted abuses that include mass killings, inhuman treatment of the supporters of the previous government . . . the total suppression of recognized political and religious freedoms, as well as deprivation of food and health care."
The president, who has not pointed his finger directly at nations accused of human rights violations since the early days of his administration, called on the countries of the world to protest.
"It is an obligation of every member of the international community to protest the policies of this or any nation which cruelly and systematically violates the right of its people to enjoy life and basic human dignities," he said.
Jerrold Schecter, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said the statement was issued "because we wish to focus world opinion on this."
"It is something we wanted to reiterate," he said.
In Oslo, Norway, hearings began yesterday by a private group that is examining the Cambodian situation.
Carter said in his statement his administration supports "the growing international protest against the policies of this inhumane regime."
He said he welcomed the efforts of Amnesty International, a London-based group that won the Nobel Peace Prize for efforts to protect human rights, to press the Cambodian government into offering an accounting of the charges.
Earlier this month, the Canadian House of Commons adopted a unanimous motion of protest against the Southeast Asian regime.