Shadow-Play Justice ; UN Eyes Human Rights Probes in Indonesia, Cambodia

Article excerpt

Have law, will travel.

That epigram could well be the calling card these days for the United Nations secretary-general.

Kofi Annan has become a global justice-slinger, a paladin trying to bring the long arm of the law to lands where great atrocities have taken place, such as in former Yugoslavia.

This week, he's in two Southeast Asian nations, tiny Cambodia and giant Indonesia. They face international pressure - best represented by Mr. Annan - to prosecute fellow countrymen held responsible for flagrant human rights violations.

Annan's travels reflect a trend in this post-cold-war age. Western investors and rich-nation donors can hinder a nation's economy if it doesn't play by international rules. Indonesia and Cambodia cannot afford to practice a local style of shadow-play justice against warriors linked to large massacres.

In effect, the rule of law and the global economy need each other.

In Cambodia, the UN is demanding a deciding role for foreigners on a tribunal set to judge the leading remnants of the Khmer Rouge. But Prime Minister Hun Sen - whose own past inside the Khmer Rouge remains murky - wants Cambodian judges to hold the gavel.

The UN chief is rightly holding firm in his demand, knowing the world wants an open and honest trial of the Khmer Rouge and its "killing fields" rule from 1975 to 1978.

In Indonesia, the shadow play of justice is now more open, thanks to a dramatic shift toward greater democracy. …