This Week

Issue: "The politics of grace," April 25, 1998

Evading justice? (I)

Cheating pursuers who believed they were days away from capturing him for trial, toppled Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot apparently died in his sleep-evading worldly prosecution in the deaths of as many as 2 million countrymen. He was 73. Wire-service reports said Cambodians wept in disappointment after hearing that Pol Pot had died of heart failure last week in a jungle hut on the Thai border, even as the last diehard members of his vanquished movement were moving toward surrendering him to an international tribunal. A Cambodian defense minister told Agence France Presse, "We could not prevent his death. It is unfortunate and we are sad because we wanted him to be tried." Sydney Schanberg, the New York Times reporter who wrote The Death and Life of Dith Pran, the book on the Khmer Rouge that became the basis for Killing Fields, was initially skeptical of the death story. He raised the possibility on CNN that Pol Pot may have been slipped into China. But Mr. Schanberg said even if Pol Pot really is dead, that shouldn't end the pursuit of justice. Many of Pol Pot's associates are alive and well and have plenty of blood on their hands. "This is like saying, well, Hitler is dead, but Himmler and Goebbels have reformed themselves. They shouldn't be brought to trial. They should go free." Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, killing everyone who stood in the way of remaking the country into a Marxist agrarian regime. One person in five died of starvation, illness, or execution. Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk, whom the Khmer Rouge deposed, recently described Pol Pot as "one of the most powerful monsters ever created by humanity."

Evading justice? (II)

After enjoying a stunning dismissal in the Paula Jones case, President Clinton and his spinners will have to buckle down again, now that Mrs. Jones has decided to appeal. The fundamental question 'Is exposing one's self and crudely soliciting sex "outrageous" behavior under the law?'will be up to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to decide. Regardless of the outcome, the presidential evasion remains: Mr. Clinton likely won't face trial in office.

World Court sovereignty?

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When Paraguayan Angel Francisco Breard was sentenced to death for a 1992 murder and attempted rape, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and the World Court pleaded that he be spared. Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore refused and, backed by the Justice Department, state officials executed Mr. Breard, 32, by injection. His last words: "Glory be to God." In the days leading up to the execution, the 15-member United Nations Tribunal ruled that the execution be blocked. Why? Virginia authorities failed to notify Paraguay of Mr. Breard's arrest as required by the Vienna Convention. Gov. Gilmore, formerly the state's attorney general, said that obeying the World Court "would have the practical effect of transferring responsibility from the courts of the commonwealth and the United States to the International Court." That court wanted the execution delayed while its global panel of judges decided whether Mr. Breard deserved a new trial. Rulings by the World Court are not binding. Ms. Albright said she feared the case would jeopardize the safety of Americans arrested in other countries. Mr. Gilmore said he shared her concern about the safety of Americans abroad, but that he was also concerned about the safety of Virginians from murderers: "People are entitled to know they will be safe in their homes." Earlier in the day of the execution the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, also refused to block it. Mr. Breard forfeited his right to complain about his embassy's not being contacted because he failed to assert his claim in state court. What he did claim in state court was that the devil made him do it. A memo addressed to Mr. Breard from his incredulous lawyers outlined the slim defense evidence: "We have advised you that the only defense will consist of your testimony that you are not responsible for [the murder] because you were the victim of a satanic curse which forced you to commit this act." The jury didn't buy Mr. Breard's attempt to evade individual responsibility. He was convicted of stabbing Ruth Dickie, a 39-year-old neighbor, five times on Feb. 17, 1992. He told police he intended to rape her, but ran away when he heard someone knock on the door. Mr. Breard immigrated in 1986. Paraguay and Mr. Breard's defense team contend that if he had been allowed to contact the consulate, he would have been advised to accept a plea agreement that would have spared his life. U.S. authorities deny such an offer was made. Prosecutors say Mr. Breard had plenty of legal help and that he did not raise any concerns during his highly publicized trial. In January, a U.S. federal appeals court dismissed a lawsuit Paraguay had filed against Virginia, saying the Constitution prohibits foreign governments from suing states.


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