ATLANTA – Former President Carter on Tuesday called for the United States to shut down the Guantanamo Bay (search ) prison to demonstrate its commitment to human rights.
"The U.S. continues to suffer terrible embarrassment and a blow to our reputation ... because of reports concerning abuses of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo," Carter said after a two-day human rights conference at his Atlanta center.
Such reports have surfaced despite President Bush's "bold reminder that America is determined to promote freedom and democracy around the world," Carter said.
About 540 detainees are being held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Some have been there more than three years without being charged with a crime. Most were captured on the battlefields of Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002 and were sent to Guantanamo Bay in hope of extracting useful intelligence about the Al Qaeda (search) terrorist network.
Carter said the United States needs to make sure no detainees are held incommunicado and that all are told the charges against them.
Despite his criticism of Guantanamo Bay, Carter said Amnesty International (search) should not have called the prison "the gulag of our time" in a report last month. President Bush has termed the report by the human-rights group "absurd."
Carter said the alleged abuses at Guantanamo Bay could never compare with the forced labor camps operated by the former Soviet Union.