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Uganda to Mull Arrest if Sudan’s Bashir Comes

Reuters Created: July 13, 2009 Last Updated: July 14, 2009
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Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir lashes out at the West over a warrant for his arrest in a speech he gave during a meeting with representatives of national syndicates and organizations in Khartoum late on March 15, 2009. (Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images)

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir lashes out at the West over a warrant for his arrest in a speech he gave during a meeting with representatives of national syndicates and organizations in Khartoum late on March 15, 2009. (Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images)

Uganda's Foreign Minister Okello Oryem refuses to say whether or not Bashir will be arrested. (Rabih Moghrabi/AFP/Getty Images)

Uganda's Foreign Minister Okello Oryem refuses to say whether or not Bashir will be arrested. (Rabih Moghrabi/AFP/Getty Images)

ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo gives a press conference on March 4, 2009 announcing it was seeking the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir for war crimes in Darfur, issuing the first ever warrant against a sitting head of state. (Valerie Kuypers/AFP/Getty Images)

ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo gives a press conference on March 4, 2009 announcing it was seeking the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir for war crimes in Darfur, issuing the first ever warrant against a sitting head of state. (Valerie Kuypers/AFP/Getty Images)

University students protest chief International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo outside the U.N. offices in Khartoum on March 7, 2009. (Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images)

University students protest chief International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo outside the U.N. offices in Khartoum on March 7, 2009. (Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images)

KAMPALA—Uganda said on Monday it would consider acting on an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant against Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir if he comes to Kampala for an international conference at the end of the month.

But Bashir—whom the ICC has indicted over crimes in Sudan's western Darfur region—is not a "chicken-thief" to be pursued unceremoniously, added Okello Oryem, a junior foreign minister responsible for international relations.

"So until Bashir is here, I cannot tell you if or not he will be arrested," he said at a news conference together with ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.

Media in the region say Bashir has been considering attending a global affairs meeting, called Smart Partnership Dialogue, along with other heads of state, at the end of July.

Sudanese officials seldom confirm his trips in advance.

Uganda is a signatory to the ICC, so a visit by the Sudanese leader would force Kampala to decide if it implements or ignores the arrest warrant, which has stirred controversy across Africa.

Moreno-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 attending President Jacob Zuma's inauguration in May.

‘Legal Obligation’

"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 said.

"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."

The Ugandan official, Oryem, said Kampala had an "unwavering" commitment to the ICC statute.

"The warrant against Bashir is already deposited here in the solicitor general's office," he said, adding that police inspector-general Kale Kayihura would take any final decision.

"If and when Bashir arrives here in Uganda, then it is up to Kayihura to see to it that he takes action if and when it arises," he said.

"On the other hand, he (Bashir) is not a chicken thief whom you start arresting in an unceremonial manner so let's wait for Bashir to arrive and see what the government of Uganda would do."

The ICC has indicted Bashir on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and torture.

He has dismissed the allegations as part of a Western conspiracy, and the African Union has sought a deferment of the indictment, saying it is complicating peace efforts in Darfur.

An AU summit in Libya earlier this month voted to suspend cooperation with the ICC in the matter.

Fighting between Sudan's government, its allies and a myriad of rebel groups in Darfur has claimed as many as 300,000 lives, according to the United Nations. Khartoum says only 10,000 have died since the ethnic and politically driven Darfur conflict flared in 2003.




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