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Rights Group Criticizes China Invitation to Sudanese Leader

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Khartoum, 20 Dec 2010

The Chinese government is being called on to rescind its invitation to Sudanese President al-Bashir. Human Rights Watch (HRW) calls the invitation an “affront” to the victims in Darfur and other parts of Sudan where conflict has occurred recently. There are reports Mr. al-Bashir could visit China June 27.


“The key to understand is President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan is charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur. And these are charges that have come from judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague,” said Richard Dicker, director of the group’s International Justice Program in New York.

The Chinese government, he said, should be “standing up for justice” rather than celebrating an al-Bashir visit.

Dicker holds out hope the visit will not take place.

“He’s not there yet and I’m mindful of the fact that many of his visits of late have been canceled to countries where his presence was deemed too embarrassing or politically costly for him to arrive,” he said.

China is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and Human Rights Watch wants it to act in that capacity when meeting with Mr. Bashir. The Security Council referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC.

“The Chinese government needs to press upon him the absolute imperative of his government cooperating with the International Criminal Court in its work and including Omar al-Bashir surrendering himself for a fair trial,” said Dicker.


Dicker agrees with those who say China’s interest in Sudan has much to do with its rich oil reserves, such as those in Abyei.

“China, let’s recall, has covered itself sadly with shame. At the time of the worst atrocities in Darfur, I’m sad to say, the People’s Republic of China was the principal arms seller to Sudan and the principal purchaser of Sudanese oil. With everything that’s happening, the Chinese government, if it aspires to a responsible role on the international stage, needs to weigh in with Bashir and do everything it can to get him to halt the juggernaut that he and his government have unleashed against civilians in the southern part of his country,” Dicker said.

Clear message

Dicker believes China could deliver a stern message to Mr. Bashir without inviting him to Beijing.

“I think the Chinese withdrawing the invitation and making clear the rationale for withdrawing that invitation would send a very clear signal to Khartoum. I can’t imagine a more effective way to message that point to President Bashir and his government,” he said.

Conflict broke out recently in Abyei and Southern Kordofan State and threatens to erupt elsewhere shortly before the south becomes an independent nation. Dicker believes China has an “Important role” to play in restoring peace.

“But the point is, let’s get on with it,” he said, “as a long time backer of the government in Khartoum… the Chinese government is well placed to message the point that the Sudanese military needs to pull back from its very, very brutal crackdown and moves against different ethnic groups and opponents of the Khartoum regime in South Sudan.”

Tuesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said China has not signed the treaty governing the ICC. He admonished critics of the trip, which he called a visit by a long-time ally of Beijing. He also noted that President Bashir has been "warmly welcomed" by other nations during his ongoing visit to other countries.