Sudanese, Ugandan Presidents defy ICC

President Omar Al Bashir returned home on Thursday evening after taking part in the inauguration of President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda.

President Omar Al Bashir returned home on Thursday evening after taking part in the inauguration of President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda.

The President’s visit to Kampala was in open defiance of the International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant against him, and the Sudanese Foreign Minister immediately poured scorn on the ICC, which has indicted Al Bashir for i.a. crimes against humanity and genocide.

Earlier today, Amnesty International issued a press release calling on Uganda to arrest Al Bashir and surrender him to the ICC. The US, European and Canadian delegations walked-out of the inauguration ceremony in protest against Al Bashir's presence, and remarks about the ICC by Museveni.

“ICC a political tool used to serve the interest of the states of hegemony…”

The Sudanese state news agency (SUNA) reports that Al Bashir was received at the airport upon arrival by the First Vice President Gen Bakri Hassan Salih and a number of ministers and senior officials.

In press statements following the return of the President, the State Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kamal Eddin Ismail, pointed out that the aim of the visit was to take part in the inauguration of President Museveni in which a number of African Heads of State and Government took part.

He described the visit as successful and achieved its objectives, saying it also carried some significance “showing the weakness of the so-called International Criminal Court in Africa”.

He said the visit of President Bashir to Kampala, Uganda, was well received officially and publicly in that country and that it spurred lots of discussions in the Ugandan street.

He said the Ugandan President pointed out that the event meant that Africa no longer cared about the ICC and that it had dumped it altogether, describing the court as a political tool used to serve the interest of the states of hegemony.

He said President Bashir had met during the visit with President Museveni and that the brief meeting discussed issues of concern to the two states and that President Museveni invited President Bashir to visit Uganda for a second time within the bilateral ties between the two countries.

The State Minister said this was President Bashir's first visit to Uganda in ten years, and that it helped redirect relations between the two countries to their right course.

President Yoweri Museveni has referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) as “a bunch of useless people.”

Addressing a gathering shortly after he was sworn-in for a fifth term in office, Museveni while introducing Heads of State present, said Uganda invited Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir despite a warrant of arrest. He referred to the ICC as “a bunch of useless people.”

Diplomatic walk-out

According to ABC News, the U.S. delegation to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's inauguration walked out of Thursday's ceremony in protest against his disparaging comments about an international war crimes tribunal and the presence of Sudan's leader, whom the court has indicted, the State Department said.

Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Deborah Malac and a visiting Washington-based official, along with several European and Canadian diplomats, abruptly left the inauguration after Museveni made negative remarks about the International Criminal Court in his inaugural address. She added that the U.S. also objected to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's participation in the inauguration. Al-Bashir has been charged by the court for atrocities in Sudan's western Darfur region.

Trudeau did not identify the European or Canadian diplomats involved. She said Museveni's comments were "insulting" to both the court and to victims of war crimes and genocide.

"We believe that walking out in protest is an appropriate reaction to a head of state mocking efforts to ensure accountability for victims of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, particularly when his country has committed to accountability as a state party to the Rome Statute" that established the court, she said.

Travel ban

Despite his defiance of the ICC, the arrest warrants against him, and the threat of arrest if within the Territory of any Rome Statute signatory, Al Bashir has had to tread carefully when travelling abroad recently.

In 2013, a charter aircraft carrying Al Bashir to Iran was denied overflight rights by Saudi Arabia and forced to return to Khartoum.

Attitudes towards the ICC within the African Union range between apathy and hostility, and Al Bashir has been able to travel relatively freely within Africa, however in June 2015, he was forced to flee an African Union summit in South Africa in a private jet, after the country’s high court ruled that he should be banned from leaving pending the outcome of a hearing on his possible arrest.

In 2015, he cancelled a trip to attend an Asia-Africa conference in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta after protests by rights groups who wanted him arrested. However, in March this year, Using a Saudi-registered aircraft, he managed to fly to Jakarta under the radar of Indonesian human rights activists and NGOs, to attend the 5th Islamic Cooperation Summit.

(Sources: ABC News, SUNA)