GENEVA (Reuters) - The top U.N. human rights official chided China on Thursday for failing to arrest Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on an international warrant for alleged war crimes when he visited Beijing this week.
Navi Pillay, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that all states have a duty to end impunity for serious crimes.
Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over war crimes charges stemming from fighting in the Darfur region where at least 300,000 people have been killed.
He has been on a state visit this week to China, his country’s powerful patron.
“There is duty and responsibility on the part of every country, including China, to assist the court in bringing to justice individuals who have been indicted,” Pillay told a news conference.
“So I think it’s disappointing when states do not deliver on this responsibility. In this particular case there was an opportunity to ensure that Mr Bashir is enabled to stand trial. The whole world favours trial.”
China has shrugged off calls by human rights groups to arrest Bashir, saying it has every right to host the head of a state with which it has diplomatic relations.
The U.N. Security Council initiated the case against Bashir at the ICC. He refuses to recognise the international court, has said the ICC warrant is part of a plot against Sudan and has denied responsibility for large-scale killings there.
China is one of the few countries willing to host Bashir.
“As a former judge on the International Criminal Court, I can assure you that the court painstakingly ensures that everyone is given a fair trial and everyone is presumed innocent until the court finds sufficient evidence beyond reasonable doubt to convict such a person,” Pillay said.
“It’s not like we are calling for an execution of someone, we are calling for the arrest of someone.”
Pillay said her office was in constant contact with Chinese authorities, including over its own human rights situation.
“I’m very concerned with the issues of the suppression of freedom of speech, actions taken against human rights defenders, journalists and so on,” she said.
Pillay said that she had requested information about Chinese activists who have been arrested and what their fate is.
Amnesty International called on Thursday for China to stop the harassment, arbitrary detention and torture of human rights lawyers, part of what it called an “uncompromising” series of Chinese steps to rein in activists.
Since February, China has cracked down on potential political challengers, worried the anti-authoritarian uprisings in the Arab world could inspire protests against one-party rule. More than 130 rights activists and human rights lawyers have been detained or “disappeared” without charges, Amnesty said.
This week during a visit to London, Premier Wen Jiabao again promised China’s citizens democracy and human rights, though activists say there is little prospect the ruling Communist Party will relinquish its vast powers.
Editing by Mark Heinrich