A Tribunal for Pol Pot

Pol Pot's crimes have been compared to those of Hitler or Stalin. More than 1 million Cambodians were massacred by his Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979. Holding him and his top aides accountable is a matter of international urgency.

It's also a matter fraught with political and technical difficulties. To begin with, reports that Pol Pot is in the custody of rebel Khmer Rouge forces still lack confirmation. And despite calls from the capital, Phnom Penh, for an international tribunal to deal with Pol Pot, doubts persist that Cambodia's current leaders really want the Khmer Rouge chief to tell all. Many of them have past ties to the Khmer Rouge. So does China, which long backed Pol Pot's guerrillas against the Vietnam-installed government in Phnom Penh. The US, too, backed the anti-Vietnam forces, allied with Pol Pot, during the 1980s.

Washington is now taking the lead in demanding an international trial for Pol Pot and, presumably, other Khmer Rouge figures. The hope is that Canada, Denmark, or the Netherlands might be willing to extradite him, on the basis of their laws allowing prosecution for crimes against humanity. Then a UN-sanctioned court would have to be organized, along the lines of those dealing with crimes in Bosnia and Rwanda.

None of this is easy or straightforward. But it's well worth undertaking. The world needs to make clear its intolerance for the kind of murderous misrule embodied by Pol Pot.

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