Uganda on Thursday has dismissed the decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to refer Kampala and Djibouti to the UN Security Council.
Judges at the Hague-based court on Tuesday justified the move saying both countries recently failed to arrest wanted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
“We will not lose sleep over this matter, our president Yoweri Museveni made our position clear, we are not shaken,” said , Okello Oryem, Minister for International Affairs
Speaking to Anadolu Agency on the phone, he added: “The problem with the ICC is that it doesn’t listen, they should listen to Africa’s demand to review the Rome Statute.”
In a statement Tuesday, the ICC said Uganda and Djibouti had failed to comply with the request for arrest of Bashir, and naturally his surrender to the ICC.
The ICC said it had also referred the matter to the Assembly of State Parties, which represents the nations that ratified the Rome Statute, to take necessary measures regarding the matter.
During his swearing-in ceremony on May 12, which Bashir attended in Kampala, Ugandan President Museveni lashed out at the ICC saying: “We lost interest in the ICC, it’s none of our business, it’s a useless body.”
“We had supported them (ICC) initially thinking they were serious but they are just a bunch of useless people,” he added.
Bashir also attended the swearing-in ceremony of Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh. Djibouti, like Uganda, is a member of the ICC Assembly of State Parties. Both countries are mandated to execute the ICC’s arrest warrants, issued in 2009 and 2010, to detain Bashir and hand him over for trial in The Hague.
In the recent past, African leaders have been increasingly critical of the ICC, accusing the court of targeting African leaders.
“The position of Uganda and the AU [African Union] is this: Sitting heads should not be arrested, they can be got after they leave power,” said Oryem.
“We highly respect the Rome statute and the rule of law, but Bashir is a president and you cannot just arrest him like that, we must review these laws.”
“It is not the role of the ICC to review the Rome Statute but state parties, the ICC is an organ of the Statute,” explains legal expert Nicholas Opio.
“Their answer is to pull out […] missing the point that the ICC is not a primary court but a secondary court that intervenes when national courts do not and are unwilling to work,” he said.
According to Opio the onus is now with the UN Security Council which should bring all its instruments including sanctions against Uganda and Djibouti for not respecting international law, potentially using binding and enforcement resolutions as well as diplomatic shaming.
South Africa also stirred controversy last year when it did not arrest Bashir when he attended an African Union summit in Johannesburg.
It is not clear yet whether Bashir will attend the next UN General Assembly meeting in September in the U.S., for which he applied a visa in May.
The ICC in 2009 issued an arrest warrant for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the strife-torn Darfur region by al-Bashir’s forces. He became the first sitting head of State to be indicted by the Court.
Efforts to get a response from the Djibouti consulates in Uganda and Kenya were futile.