(Adds Chinese government comment in third paragraph.)
June 28 (Bloomberg) -- Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir, indicted for genocide and war crimes, arrived in China after being forced to postpone meetings with officials yesterday because his plane was turned back by Turkmenistan authorities.
Al-Bashir landed in Beijing early this morning, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The Sudanese leader had been en route from Iran to China to meet President Hu Jintao, Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Al-Obaid Murawih, said by phone from Khartoum. He said the plane returned to Tehran and didn’t give its location when it was forced to change course.
"We don’t see there are political reasons for the change," Murawih said. "For us, the change was done due to technical reasons." Al-Bashir’s meetings with Chinese leaders were unaffected, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular press briefing in Beijing.
The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for al-Bashir, accusing him of responsibility for genocide and war crimes in the western Sudanese region of Darfur. Al-Bashir denies the charges. Since the indictment, he has been forced to cancel trips abroad as human rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch pressed countries to withdraw invitations or arrest him on arrival.
Al-Bashir had been in Tehran since June 24, and attended a conference there on combating terrorism.
Turkey, Zambia and Central African Republic are among the countries that have canceled planned visits by al-Bashir, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.
China Not Signatory
Special envoy for African affairs Liu Guijin said on June 23 that China isn’t obliged to follow the international court’s order because it isn’t a signatory to the treaty setting up the court. China "has reservations about the International Criminal Court’s prosecution of President Bashir," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong said last week.
China has close ties with the leaders of northern Sudan and has been courting support in the oil-producing south, which becomes an independent country July 9.
The leaders of the two countries “will discuss how to consolidate China-Sudan relations and expand cooperation,” Hong said this month. Both sides will exchange views on Sudan’s north-south peace process and the Darfur issue, he said.
“Beijing will signal its total disregard for victims of heinous crimes in Darfur if it welcomes al-Bashir,” Richard Dicker, international justice director at Human Rights Watch, said in an e-mailed statement on June 21. “Al-Bashir’s flouting of international arrest warrants should be cause for condemnation, not for an invitation. Beijing should instead be using its influence to press for justice in Darfur.”
The president canceled plans to visit Malaysia this month because he had other engagements, Malaysia’s state-run Bernama news agency reported June 16. The announcement came amid pressure from Human Rights Watch and London-based Amnesty for Malaysia to arrest the African leader if he entered the country.
The eight-year conflict in Darfur between rebels and Sudan’s army has led to the deaths of as many as 300,000 people, mainly due to illness and starvation, and forced about 2.7 million to flee their homes, according to UN estimates. The Sudanese government has put the death toll at about 10,000.
The insurgents took up arms in 2003, accusing the government of neglecting the region.
--With assistance from Yidi Zhao in Beijing and Ben Richardson in Hong Kong. Editors: Ben Richardson, John Brinsley
To contact the reporters on this story: Maram Mazen in Khartoum at firstname.lastname@example.org; Joshua Fellman in New York at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at firstname.lastname@example.org