From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Tue Jul 14 2009 - 08:04:43 EDT
Minister: Uganda will arrest Bashir
Angelo Izama & Risdel Kasasira
News | July 14, 2009
A senior cabinet minister yesterday said Sudan President Omar El Bashir
faces arrest if he visits Uganda - only days after the government invited
the leader to attend a top-level summit.
The government's U-turn on Gen. Bashir, whose arrest is being sought by the
International Criminal Court over charges of war crimes and crimes against
humanity in Darfur region in his country, came during a visit to Kampala by
the ICC chief prosecutor, Mr Luis Moreno Ocampo.
Addressing a joint press conference in Kampala yesterday with Mr Ocampo,
International Relations Minister Henry Okello Oryem acknowledged that the
government has received a warrant of arrest for Gen. Bashir, who is the
first sitting president to be indicted by the court.
"An arrest warrant for Bashir has been deposited at the office of the
Solicitor General," Mr Oryem said. "It's up to [Inspector General of Police]
Gen. Kale Kayihura to arrest him.
"It's a legal obligation for Uganda to arrest Bashir were he to come to
Uganda. Bashir should know this before he comes," he said, adding that the
arrest will "eventually" happen.
Uganda was the first country to refer a matter to the ICC when it
successfully procured indictments for LRA rebel leader Joseph Kony and his
The government has, however, blown hot and cold on the matter, invoking the
LRA indictments to force the rebels to the unsuccessful peace talks in Juba
last year, while supporting a decision by the African Union (AU) not to
respect the warrants against Gen. Bashir.
The government has a leg on either side of the fence; it says it remains
committed to the ICC and plans to strengthen it - but also claims to share
the AU's views.
Mr Ocampo said yesterday that the AU was not a party to the Rome Statute and
that Uganda, which is, is not bound by the "political" discussions meant to
shield Bashir from trial in The Hague.
Mr Ocampo said Uganda would be obliged to arrest the Sudanese president, and
cited the case of South Africa where he said the possibility of detention
stopped him (Bashir) attending President Jacob Zuma's inauguration in May.
"South Africa informed Bashir that he could be invited to President Zuma's
inauguration, but if he is there he could be arrested," the ICC prosecutor
"It's a legal obligation not a political decision, it's a court decision and
Uganda, South Africa and the 30 African (member) state parties have this
legal obligation, it's clear," he said.
Last Friday, after this newspaper broke the story of Bashir's intended
visit, the Foreign Affairs ministry maintained that the Sudanese leader was
Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa said: "The AU is not working outside the
Rome Statute. For durable peace [other] remedies need to be exhausted first.
These are just accusations [against Bashir] even the prosecutor has to prove
The government now finds itself between an ocean of responsibility and a
serpent of political pragmatism. The government has accused Gen. Bashir of
supporting the LRA rebels - in retaliation for Kampala's support for the
Sudanese People's Liberation Army - but is keen not to reignite the regional
tensions by arresting or humiliating the Sudanese leader.
Solicitor General Billy Kainamura confirmed yesterday that he had Bashir's
arrest warrant but Police boss Kayihura could not be reached for comment.
Police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba declined to comment on the matter.
By press time, Mr Ocampo was expected to meet President Museveni at State
Khartoum has given no indication as to whether President Bashir plans to
honour the invitation to the Smart Partnership Dialogue later this month.
The Sudanese leader has, in a sign of defiance, visited several countries
since the warrants of arrest were issued - but his visit to Uganda would the
first to a country that has ratified the Rome Statute which set up the ICC
and a test of Kampala's political resolve.
Uganda is currently representing Africa as a non-permanent member of the
United Nations Security Council and is expected to host an African Union
Summit in Kampala next year.
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