In 2015 alone, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, is racking up frequent flyer miles and civil society critique traveling in Africa and the Middle East. Earlier this year, Bashir visited Egypt to attend an international economic conference and made unannounced visits to Saudi Arabia and Qatar for bilateral talks. During the summer, the Sudanese President also visited South Africa, Mauritania, and Ethiopia. Fortunately, his visit to the 25th African Union summit in Johannesburg was cut short when the South African High Court issued orders to prevent him from exiting the country so that he may be arrested. However, even after a scare that could have landed him in the dock at the ICC, Bashir still has several trips planned for the remainder of the year, including possible attendance of the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City.
While Bashir has not traveled outside the Middle East or Africa since 2011, he began a four-day trip to China on Monday, August 31, 2015, for an event commemorating the end of WWII. Sudan and China have a very strong economic relationship, with China being Sudan’s biggest trade partner and importer of oil. Thus, as the world powerlessly witnesses Bashir insouciantly travel from state to state, the recent invitation from China is, unfortunately, unsurprising. Not only have the two countries been involved in bilateral relations since 1959, with their trade worth over $9 billion, but China is not a signatory of the Rome Statute and, therefore, not subject to the jurisdiction of the ICC. However, as our BashirWatch letter states below, China is indeed a permanent member of the UN Security Council, which referred the Darfur situation to the Court.
BashirWatch — an international coalition focused on pressuring states to support the ICC warrant through an arrest and transfer of President al-Bashir to the ICC for trial — has monitored his movement since the issuance of his first arrest warrant in 2009. See below for our most recent letter to President H.E. Xi Jinping, regarding Bashir’s visit to China:
September 3, 2015
H.E. Xi Jinping
President of the People’s Republic of China
The State Council General Office
People’s Republic of China
Dear President Xi,
The BashirWatch Coalition, a group of human rights organizations dedicated to accountability in Sudan, writes to express its grave concern that the Government of The People’s Republic of China has welcomed the visit of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, despite his record of human rights abuses.
President al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. He is perpetrating the ongoing atrocities in Darfur, where hundreds of thousands have died since 2003 and millions remain displaced. In 2014 alone, approximately half a million people were newly displaced in Darfur, and projections for 2015 are even grimmer, with up to 210,000 already displaced this year. The crimes in Darfur continue to rage, and violence has spread into other areas of Sudan, including South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Bashir has continuously blocked humanitarian aid from reaching those in need, and many people are at risk of starvation. Bashir has carried out his reign of terror with impunity for more than twelve years, and bringing justice to his victims is long overdue.
Although China is not a State Party to the Rome Statute, non-member states are encouraged to bring international fugitives to justice. The situation in Darfur was referred to the Court by the United Nations Security Council through UNSC Resolution 1593 (2005), which urges all members of the United Nations (UN) to fully cooperate with the Court. As a member of the UN, and particularly as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China falls within this exhortation and should act to bring Bashir to justice.
Welcoming President al-Bashir only serves to embolden a leader of a regime that continues to bomb civilian areas and cut off humanitarian aid to those in dire need. Inviting him to a commemoration of the end of World War II, the conflict that gave rise to the definition of the crime of genocide, only adds insult to injury.
This Coalition calls on the Chinese authorities to arrest and transfer Bashir to the ICC to face the charges against him in a fair trial.
Thank you on behalf of the Bashir Watch Coalition,
The International Justice Project, NJ, USA
Darfur Women Action Group, DC, USA
United to End Genocide, DC, USA
Waging Peace, London, UK
For Contact: Dan Sullivan │ 202-556-2109
Cc: H.E. Cui Tiankai, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the United States