Spotlight on China as Sudanese President is Indicted

From the AP:

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court filed genocide charges Monday against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, accusing him of masterminding attempts to wipe out African tribes in Darfur with a campaign of murder, rape and deportation.

The filing marked the first time prosecutors at the world’s first permanent, global war crimes court have issued charges against a sitting head of state, but al-Bashir is unlikely to be sent to The Hague any time soon. Sudan rejects the court’s jurisdiction, and senior Sudanese officials said the prosecutor was politically motivated to file the charges.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked a three-judge panel at the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant for al-Bashir to prevent the slow deaths of some 2.5 million people forced from their homes in Darfur and still under attack from government-backed janjaweed militia.

Moreno-Ocampo said it was up to the U.N. Security Council to “ensure compliance with the court’s decision.” Achieving unanimous backing for any action will be fraught with problems since two of the council’s members, China and Russia, are Sudan’s allies.

China, which is Khartoum’s biggest arms supplier and a major investor in its oil industry, already had indicated its opposition to an indictment. China’s United Nations ambassador said that any action against al-Bashir may put peacekeepers in Darfur at risk. And since the prosecutor announced his plan to bring charges against al- Bashir, council members met privately, with China and Russia warning that a direct move against the Sudanese president would jeopardize any future peace talks.

With its decision last week to veto a UN attempt to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and with al-Bashir now indicted, China’s overall foreign policy of non-interference and no-strings-attached investments is once again under the spotlight.  In what surely is very bad timing for the Chinese, the indictment comes only one month away from the start of the Olympics.

From the BBC:

Next month’s Beijing summer games have been dubbed the ‘Genocide Olympics’ by Hollywood campaigners.

They accuse China of supplying the Sudanese government with arms to enable it to wage a campaign of violence in Darfur. Stephen Spielberg recently cut his ties with the Olympics over the issue.

Beijing and Khartoum have long had strong political, economic and military ties. Because of this strong relationship, Chinese leaders have traditionally resisted international pressure to use their clout to bring peace to Darfur, where there is conflict between government-backed militias and rebels.