By Wasil Ali
July 11, 2008 (WASHINGTON) – The Chinese government is informally working on a resolution to defer the upcoming indictments by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Sudanese officials, a UN diplomat told Sudan Tribune today.
- Chinese Permanent Representative to the United Nations Guangya Wang listens to speakers during a meeting of the Security Council at the United Nations July 11, 2008 in New York City (AFP)
The diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity said that Beijing wants to invoke a rule within the ICC statue that enables the UN Security Council (UNSC) to defer prosecutions for a period of 12 months.
“I don’t see any prospects for such a resolution, at least for now” the UN diplomat said.
China is considered as close ally to Khartoum. Beijing had been blamed for preventing the UNSC from taking concrete measures against Khartoum. It is also accused of providing weapons to the Sudanese army. China has important oil investment in Sudan.
It is not clear how far the Chinese are willing to push such a resolution ahead of the Beijing Olympics labeled by many Darfur activists as the ‘Genocide Olympics’.
Many world activists in US and Europe called on their heads of state to boycott the opening ceremony to press the Chinese on stopping its support of Khartoum.
Yesterday the Washington Post quoted unidentified UN officials and diplomats as saying that the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo would ask the judges for an arrest warrant against the Sudanese president Omar Hassan Al-Bashir next week for genocide and crimes against humanity.
The Associated Press quoting similar sources today said that similar charges will be brought against Sudan’s 2nd Vice President Ali Osman Taha.
The Chinese envoy at the UN Wang Guangya told reporters at the UN headquarters said he does not think the indictments are helpful.
“There is a lot of concern. Certainly I think impunity is part of the solution for Sudan problems but I think there are more important problems” the Chinese envoy said.
“I believe we should have a balanced constructive approach to all elements of the Sudan problems. The [ICC] announcement might have serious negative implications on other pillars of Sudan peace process” he added.
Guangya appearing tense, was speaking after vetoing a sanctions resolution on Zimbabwe, and hinted that the UNSC must suspend the indictments.
“There are elements in the [Rome] statute. It depends on the Council; I believe that the Council members have to take up this responsibility” the Chinese envoy said.
Article 16 of the Rome Statue considered to be the bible of the ICC states that “no investigation or prosecution may be commenced or proceeded with under this Statute for a period of 12 months after the Security Council, in a resolution adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, has requested the Court to that effect; that request may be renewed by the Council under the same conditions”.
Two sources familiar with diplomatic discussions of the prosecutor’s plans over past weeks told Reuters that China fears the security and diplomatic fallout, especially if Al-Bashir is named.
In private talks with other U.N. Security Council permanent member states, Chinese diplomats warned the arrest move would "vastly complicate" struggling peace efforts in Darfur and could prompt Bashir to choke off all cooperation and embolden rebel groups to resist negotiations, said one of the sources.
"China believes this will make political dialogue on Darfur so much more difficult" said the other source, who said he had discussed the issue with diplomats involved.
"The Olympic Games haven’t entered into China’s consultations, but the timing is very bad".
If the ICC prosecutor was going to seek fresh arrests, China preferred he was "pragmatic" and targeted lesser officials, the two sources said. Both spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the official sensitivity about the issue.
China is not a signatory of the Rome Statue that forms the basis of the ICC and has abstained from voting on resolution 1593 referring crimes in Darfur to the world court in March 2005.
The Chinese abstention drew criticism from Sudanese officials including presidential assistant Nafi Ali Nafi who questioned “why China has not used the veto power to protect its friends”.
The Sudanese second Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha told Sudan’s cabinet he had Chinese assurances that resolution 1593 would not be passed, a source close to the presidency told Reuters on December 17 2005.
"He was confident it would not get through and told them not to worry," he said. Their abstention rather than a veto embarrassed Taha within the government, the presidency source said.
The judges of the ICC already issued their first arrest warrants for suspects accused of war crimes in Sudan’s Darfur region in May 2007.
The warrants were issued for Ahmed Haroun, state minister for humanitarian affairs, and militia commander Ali Mohamed Ali Abdel-Rahman, also know as Ali Kushayb. But Khartoum has refused to hand the two men over.
Sudan has not ratified the Rome Statue, but the UN Security Council triggered the provisions under the Statue that enables it to refer situations in non-State parties to the world court if it deems that it is a threat to international peace and security.