Ashcroft intimidating judgesThe words and actions of Attorney General John Ashcroft can always be counted on to promote debate and discussion. But in directing U.S. attorneys nationwide to start reporting on federal judges who impose lighter sentences than called for in federal sentencing guidelines, Ashcroft might have precipitated a national discussion on prison sentences and especially on "mandatory minimum" sentences for certain offenses. Such discussion is long overdue.

Ashcroft's order does not threaten judicial independence directly, though it does include a directive to make sure the government is prepared to appeal more light sentences, and to centralize such decisions in Washington. But it is a blatant attempt to intimidate federal judges into imposing heavier sentences, even when such sentences offend their sense of justice or knowledge of mitigating facts.

- The Gazette, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Three simultaneous events in the world underline how inconsistently and hypocritically the world community treats tyrants. President Saddam Hussein is being tracked down in Iraq - with good reason - and with no regard to expenses in money and human lives. At the same time, Liberian president Charles Taylor is allowed to slip into exile to Nigeria, and one of the most brutal dictators in recent history, ex-Ugandan president, Idi Amin, dies after spending two luxurious years in Saudi Arabia.

But it would be unfair to blame only Saudi Arabia or African countries, because the Western world is equally stained by the selective treatment of flagrant violators of human rights.

U.N.-led justice has made some advances in the past few years with the agreement in Rome in 1998 to set up the International Criminal Court.

Unfortunately, the beginning has not been too auspicious, because the three central world powers, China, Russia, and the United States, have not ratified the agreement. ... the United States - though often raising its voice over human rights violations - is a country willing to use any available methods to block the work of the ICC. It has even threatened to cut off military aid to countries that refuse to agree to bilateral agreements to make Americans exempt from war crimes tribunals.

- Helsingin Sanomat, Helsinki, Finland

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