China calls for “prudence” on Libya war crimes warrants


China called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to be prudent and objective in carrying out its duties, a day after the court ordered the arrest of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his son and the country’s intelligence chief.

“China hopes the ICC can prudently, justly and objectively carry out its duties, and ensure that its relevant work genuinely aids regional peace and stability,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said when asked about the arrest warrants.

Hong’s statement stopped short of condemning or endorsing the court’s actions, though China has denounced its war crimes indictment of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, currently on a state visit in Beijing.

The two leaders are the only sitting heads of state facing warrants from the court.

The Hague-based court on Monday issued warrants for Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi on charges of crimes against humanity for their alleged role in the killing of civilian protesters who rose up in February against Gaddafi’s 41-year rule.

China is not a member state of the court.
“China consistently opposes violent actions toward civilians, and advocates that all parties resolve Libya’s problems through peaceful political negotiations,” Hong said, speaking at a regular news briefing in Beijing.

China has hosted Libyan government and rebel representatives in recent weeks in what it has called an effort to encourage a ceasefire and a negotiated end to the war.

About half of China’s crude oil imports last year came from the Middle East and North Africa, where Chinese companies have a big presence.

Beijing generally avoids entangling itself in nations’ domestic affairs, but Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told Libyan rebel leaders last week that they had become an “important domestic political force” in the country.

The ICC ruling is unlikely to lead to Gaddafi’s arrest as long he remains in power and inside Libya, because the court does not have the power to enforce its warrants. Rebel forces on Monday advanced 30 km (18 miles) north toward Tripoli, Gaddafi’s main power base.

China did not use its veto power as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council in March to block the authorisation of the NATO-led air strikes on Gaddafi’s forces, but it quickly condemned the strikes.