China defended its invitation to Sudan’s war crime-indicted President Omar Hassan al-Bashir saying it had every right to invite the leader of a country with which it has diplomatic ties and brushing off an uproar from rights groups.
Amnesty International has called on China to arrest Bashir due to the two warrants issued by the International Criminal Court against him, for crimes against humanity and war crimes in the region of Darfur.
But Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that “inviting a head of a country that maintains a normal diplomatic relationship with China should not be subject to criticism, Reuters reports.
“China is not one of the parties of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. China has reserved its opinion towards the International Criminal Court lawsuit against President Omar al-Bashir,” Hong told a news briefing.
“President Bashir has been visiting other countries on a number of occasions and has been warmly welcomed by those countries.”
Bashir’s visit, scheduled for June 27-30, comes ahead of the
July 9 separation of the southern part of the country, the outcome of a referendum held earlier in the year.
Bashir and his government in Khartoum — Beijing’s long-time ally — stand to lose a third of the country’s territory and up to three quarters of its oil reserves when the south leaves.
Human rights activists have criticised China, Khartoum’s top arms supplier, for inviting Bashir.
“Beijing will signal its total disregard for victims of heinous crimes in Darfur if it welcomes al-Bashir,” Richard Dicker, international justice director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
Eight years of conflict between mostly non-Arab rebels and government troops backed by largely Arab militias in Darfur has led to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. The United Nations estimates some 300,000 people have died.
Violence has fallen from levels seen in 2003 and 2004, but fighting in Darfur has intensified again in recent months, displacing more than 70,000 people.
Hong said China was “pleased to see that Sudan’s government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement have reached an agreement” to pull their troops out of the disputed Abyei region.
Khartoum seized Abyei’s main town on May 21, causing tens of thousands of people to flee, triggering an international outcry and raising fears the two sides could return to open conflict.