6-17-2011By Josh Hafenbrack
Crimes Against Humanities Program
News that China will host Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir – who faces an international warrant for genocide and other crimes – betrays China’s contradictory stance on Sudan.
China cannot responsibly claim to be a force for peace in Sudan, while propping up Sudanese violence against civilians by providing political credibility to its president and arms to government forces.
Bashir will visit China from June 27-30. In news accounts, China’s foreign ministry spokesman said Chinese President Hu Jintao and Bashir would discuss how to “advance and consolidate our traditional friendship” and exchange views on the North-South peace process and Darfur.
While China provides Bashir a worldwide platform, the United Nations reports an alarming rise in armed conflict in South Kordofan, where civilians are “trapped in the violence” and 60,000 people have been displaced. Armed conflict in Abyei, another border region, also poses danger to civilians. The violence continues to increase ahead of South Sudan’s secession from the North, expected July 9.
Human Rights First has urged U.S. policymakers to pay increased attention to third-party enablers of mass atrocities. A prime example is China’s role in supporting the Sudanese government in the conflict in Darfur, where 300,000 people have died since 2003. The most recent overture to Bashir, at a time when he is isolated from the rest of the international community, only emphasizes China’s traditional and irresponsible role as an enabler and will undermine any work the Chinese envoy to Sudan, Liu Guijin, is doing to support negotiations between the North and South.
In July 2008, the International Criminal Court sought an arrest warrant against Bashir for crimes against humanity for actions in Darfur. The following year, the ICC issued the warrant, marking the first time the ICC issued a warrant for a sitting president since its inception in 2002. A second warrant for genocide was issued later, in July 2010. China is not a signatory to the ICC, but China has unique leverage over Sudan, as the North African country’s largest arms supplier and purchaser of oil.
China has a choice: The country can still take the responsible course and rescind its invitation to Bashir. For example, South African President Jacob Zuma last year barred Bashir from entering the country during the World Cup soccer tournament, citing the ICC arrest warrant. China would do better to follow South Africa’s example.