12 May 2011

Uganda: Bashir Must Be Arrested if He Attends Inauguration, ICC Insists

On the eve of his inauguration for yet another term, the sore relations between president Yoweri Museveni and his rival Kizza Besigye is firmly in ... ( Resource: Comrades to Enemies, the Museveni-Besigye Rivalry )

It is mandatory for Uganda to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir if he turns up for President Museveni's swearing-in today, the International Criminal Court said yesterday.

ICC country coordinator Maria Kamara told Daily Monitor that with Uganda aware of the indictment of al-Bashir, they should not have gone ahead to invite him for the ceremony.

"Uganda is a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC and again Uganda is a member of the United Nation's Security Council. So with that information Uganda shouldn't have invited him. We expect Uganda to implement this indictment if he turns up," Ms Kamara said.

Like the ICC, a rights body has also called on government to arrest the Sudanese leader if he appears for the ceremony today.

Rights groups threaten

Addressing journalists at a breakfast meeting in Kampala yesterday, Human Rights Network Uganda coordinator Joyce Freda said it was wrong for Uganda to invite al-Bashir and called on the government to respect the Rome Statute.

"What they have done betrays moral and legal obligation Uganda has as a signatory to the Rome Statute," she said. "Having such a criminal attend a high profile event is a fundamental mockery of the whole event and if Uganda really supports the ICC cause then this is the time to show that."

Uganda applied to the ICC asking it to issue arrest warrants against leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army, a rebel group that waged an insurgency in northern Uganda for over 20 years.

Ms Freda said in case al-Bashir shows up today, they (HURINET) and other civil society organisations will take it upon themselves to arrest him.

"A number of African states have gone ahead to condone criminal acts in a show of solidarity but we are not going to allow that. We are going to act."

In the past, al-Bashir has been delegating whenever he has been invited to Uganda, the last time being the African Union meeting in Munyonyo last year. The question that remains is whether he is going to delegate today. But sources within government told this paper that he had confirmed attendance.

Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary James Mugume, though could neither confirm nor deny al-Bashir is jetting in.

Ambassador Mugume, however, asked the civil society organisations to be cognizant of the need for regional security before they carry out their threats.

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