Uganda urged to arrest al-Bashir

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir during his visit to South Africa. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir during his visit to South Africa. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

A prominent international human rights group has urged the Ugandan government to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and send him to face trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, if he arrives in Uganda.

Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday that unconfirmed reports were doing the rounds that al-Bashir would attend the inauguration of Yoweri Museveni in Kampala on Thursday.

South African President Jacob Zuma and several other African leaders are already in the country for the event. Museveni, who has already been in power for 30 years,  was controversially re-elected for a fifth term in February.

“Uganda’s President Museveni has banned social media and detained some opposition leaders, but he’ll tarnish his inauguration further by welcoming Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, an international fugitive sought for alleged atrocities in Darfur,” said Maria Burnett, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“Al-Bashir belongs before the International Criminal Court, not attending inaugural celebrations. If al-Bashir does enter Uganda, Ugandan authorities should arrest him and send him to The Hague.”

HRW noted that al-Bashir faces two ICC arrest warrants, issued in 2009 and 2010 over attacks that deliberately and systematically targeted civilians in violation of international law as part of the Sudan government’s counterinsurgency policy in Darfur.

The attacks led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people to refugee camps in Chad and to camps for internally displaced people in Darfur.

Uganda is a member of the ICC and has asked the court to indict members of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a brutal rebel group which was originally established in northern Uganda though now operates outside of the country.

HRW said that many countries had previously avoided a visit from al-Bashir as activists across Africa campaigned for al-Bashir’s surrender to the ICC.

“Trips to ICC member countries have been cancelled or curtailed, including to Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, Central African Republic, and Nigeria, while countries such as Botswana have made clear he is not welcome,” Burnett said.

“In June 2015, al-Bashir travelled to South Africa amid diplomatic and public outcry.
A domestic court issued an order that barred his movement, but he nevertheless left the country. The visit remains the subject of litigation in South Africa and before the ICC.”

South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal ruled earlier this year that the government had acted unlawfully and unconstitutionally in not arresting Al-Bashir when he visited South Africa in June last year to attend the African Union summit in Johannesburg.

The SA government announced last month that it would take the case to the Constitutional Court to try to overturn the appeal court’s ruling.

Pretoria argued in the appeal court that it could not arrest the Sudanese leader because he was protected by the immunity granted on all foreign leaders. – African News Agency 

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