Johannesburg – Human rights organisations are urging the Ugandan authorities to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir who is in the country for a two-day visit, AP reports.
Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity relating to Sudan’s Darfur region.
The rights groups made their plea on Monday after al-Bashir was welcomed to Uganda by President Yoweri Museveni.
Uganda, as a signatory to the ICC treaty, has an obligation to arrest al-Bashir, who has been indicted by the ICC.
“Inviting an international criminal suspect to Uganda not only undermines the fight against impunity which Uganda has for long championed but also betrays the concerns and interests of the victims of the most heinous crimes,” six Ugandan rights watchdogs said in a joint statement.
“We therefore call upon the government of Uganda to fulfil its obligations under international and domestic laws by arresting and surrendering President Omar al-Bashir.”
Elise Keppler, from the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), concurred with the Ugandan rights groups stating that al-Bashir’s presence in Uganda “was an affront to Darfur’s victims.”
She added that other African members of the ICC, including Kenya and Nigeria, “have avoided or curtailed such visits by al-Bashir".
It seems unlikely that the arrest will happen as Uganda argues that as a visiting head of state al-Bashir is immune from arrest.
Uganda is not the first African country to refuse arresting the Sudanese president.
In 2015 South Africa hosted al-Bashir and failed to arrest him. The ICC subsequently found that Pretoria had an obligation to arrest him, a ruling which led to the country threatening to withdraw from the ICC.
Many African countries postulate that the ICC unfairly targets Africa.
Sudan imports 20 percent of Uganda’s coffee, “the single biggest export market” for one of Uganda’s top revenue earners.