13 November 2017
Dear President Museveni,
The Bashir Watch Coalition, a group of international law and human rights organizations dedicated to ending human rights violations and promoting accountability in Sudan, writes to express its concern that Uganda has invited Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for an official State Visit from 13-15 November 2017.
Under the authority of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1593, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued two arrest warrants for Omar al-Bashir. He is charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. He is alleged to have committed the ongoing atrocities in Darfur, where hundreds of thousands have died since 2003, and millions remain displaced. Fourteen years later, the crimes continue with impunity.
While violence continues in Darfur, it has also spread to other areas of Sudan, including South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The last two years have seen the highest levels of violence and displacement since the height of the genocide more than a decade ago. In 2016 alone, over 400,000 people were newly displaced by an escalation of violence by the Sudanese government.
On 29 September 2016, Amnesty International reported that at least 30 suspected chemical attacks – killing more than 200 people – had taken place in the Jebel Marra area of Darfur since the beginning of 2016. On the first day of this year, the Sudanese Armed Forces waged a brutal attack in the city of Nertiti, killing 11 and wounding over 70 civilians.
Throughout these attacks, Bashir and his government have continuously blocked humanitarian aid from reaching those in need, and many people are at risk of starvation.
Uganda is a State Party to the ICC and, as such, has a legal obligation under the Court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, to arrest any person for whom the ICC has issued a warrant. Furthermore, the situation in Darfur was referred to the Court by the United Nations Security Council through UNSC Resolution 1593 (2005), which urges all members of the United Nations (UN) to fully cooperate with the Court. As both a member of the UN and a state party to the ICC, Uganda must act to bring Bashir to justice.
This is Bashir’s second visit to Uganda after attending Your Excellency’s swearing-in ceremony in May of 2016. Despite clear obligations to cooperate with the ICC, Uganda did not arrest and surrender Bashir to the Court to face trial at that time. Consequently, the Pretrial Chamber of the ICC found Uganda to have failed to comply with its duty to arrest and surrender Bashir to the Court under article 89(1) of the Rome Statute. This trip will provide a second chance to make clear that Uganda will uphold its international and domestic legal obligations, while simultaneously sending a positive message to victims of Darfur.
Excellency, it is worth noting that the tens of thousands of Darfurians have communicated to our coalition their support of the ICC and the execution of the Sudan arrest warrants. The Bashir Watch Coalition urges the Government of Uganda to stand for justice for the people of Sudan and refuse to host an individual charged with genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity into its territory. This coalition calls on the Ugandan authorities to respect both the rule of law and their legal obligations to arrest and surrender Bashir to the ICC’s custody to fairly face the charges against him.
Thank you on behalf of the Bashir Watch Coalition,
The International Justice Project
The Coalition of the International Criminal Court
The Darfur Women Action Group