ICC Sudan decision disruptive to peace, says Chinese paper

The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) possible indictment of Sudan’s president on charges of genocide in Darfur could disrupt the peace process there, China’s top official newspaper said on Monday.

China, which is a major investor in Sudan’s oil industry and which sells arms to its government, has expressed ”grave concern” over the court’s decision to seek an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

”The Darfur crisis in Sudan has not been caused single-handedly by a certain leader, but by the joint force of various political, economic, cultural and environmental factors over a long period of time,” said the commentary in the People’s Daily, the ruling Communist Party’s mouthpiece.

China has come under international criticism from groups that object to it hosting the Beijing Olympics, saying it has not used its sway with Khartoum to seek an end to the bloodshed in Darfur.

Earlier this month, the ICC’s prosecutor asked the court for approval for an arrest warrant for al-Bashir, accusing him of genocide and war crimes in Sudan’s western region of Darfur, where a conflict has raged since 2003.

To quell a rebellion there, Khartoum mobilised militia who are accused of atrocities including widespread rape, murder and looting.

International experts estimate some 200 000 people have died and 2,5-million have had to flee their homes during the Darfur conflict, figures Sudan’s government says are exaggerated.

The two sides are involved in nascent steps toward peace, but the People’s Daily commentary said the indictment added uncertainty to that process.

”This could push the Sudan government toward the opposite of a resolution to the Darfur issue through consultation and moreover push rebel groups who have not yet entered the peace process toward a tougher and non-compromising stance,” the newspaper said.

Al-Bashir has so far not reacted to the ICC move with a violent backlash as the United Nations feared he might, but by forming a united front with opposition parties and insisting he is ready for peace talks.

Last week he visited Darfur for the first time since the court’s move.

The People’s Daily commentary said that if the opportunity for peace in Darfur was lost, the situation could worsen and threaten neighbouring countries in Africa.

”At this key time, international society should push forward the peace process and should not disrupt or block it,” it said. – Reuters

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