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ICC ASKS GOVERNMENT TO ARREST BASHIR - July 14, 2009 by Henry Mukasa Kampala - Uganda has an obligation to arrest Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir when, or if, he comes later this month, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has said. "Uganda has a legal obligation to arrest President Bashir when he comes to Uganda," ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said while addressing journalists at the Uganda Media Centre in Kampala yesterday. He was flanked by the state minister for international relations, Henry Okello Oryem. Uganda has invited Bashir to attend the SMART partnership business conference in Munyonyo at the end of this month. "President Bashir can be here but he should know the obligation of Uganda is to arrest him. He should know that before he comes," Ocampo emphasised. The ICC accuses Bashir of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. So far Bashir has been visiting countries which are not members of the ICC, which are, therefore, not obliged to arrest him. Meeting in Libya last week, the African Union agreed that African countries, which are members of the ICC, should not to cooperate in the arrest of Bashir. Uganda says it supported the resolution to allow the AU to independently investigate the charges against Bashir. "It is a legal obligation not a political issue," Ocampo said in a reaction to the AU resolution. The decision, Ocampo added, did not excuse Uganda from its legal obligations under the Rome Statute, which established the ICC. Arresting Bashir, Ocampo insisted, was the responsibility of ICC member states should Bashir visit them. Ocampo said when Bashir wanted to attend the swearing-in of President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, which is a member of the ICC, the host country asked him to send someone else otherwise he would be arrested on arrival. "It's a legal obligation to South Africa and similar to Uganda," Ocampo said. Reacting to Ocampo's remarks, Oryem said Uganda was committed to its obligations under the Rome Statute. He said the warrant of arrest for Bashir was already with the office of the Solicitor General. "If and when Bashir arrives in Uganda, it is up to (the Inspector General of Police, (General Kale) Kayihura, to take action," Oryem said. He, however, added that until Bashir arrived, he could not tell whether he would be arrested or not. He explained that Bashir was not a chicken thief you arrest in an un-ceremonial manner. "Let's wait for Bashir to arrive here and we see which action will be taken against him by the government of Uganda," he added. Commenting on the arrest warrant of Joseph Kony, the leader of the LRA rebels, Ocampo said efforts to this end had intensified. He said he had asked MONUC, the UN peace-keepers in the DR Congo, to help arrest Kony. He said another reason for his visit to Uganda was to find out what else the ICC could do to speed up Kony's arrest. "If you arrest Kony, the group (LRA) will collapse," Ocampo remarked. He said the rebels had taken advantage of the peace talks to "regain strength" but it was now possible to arrest Kony since all actors in the region had promised cooperation. "It's important to put him on trial for the crimes he committed in northern Uganda for 22 years. It's time to stop him," Ocampo said. "These massive atrocities are not about the local people, it is about humanity," Ocampo observed. He commended the collaboration between Uganda and Congo in hunting down Kony who is also accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Oryem said when Kony is arrested, he will be handed over to the ICC and not tried in Uganda. "Mat-oput (traditional justice) doesn't apply," Oryem said. "There's an on-going operation to arrest Kony. Those actions continue and we are determined however long it takes."

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