KAMPALA, UGANDA - Uganda says it will consider giving asylum to Sudan's former president Omar al-Bashir, who was deposed by his country's military last week.
"If President Omar Bashir applies for asylum in Uganda, that is a matter that can be considered by the president of Uganda," Okello Oryem, Uganda's state minister for foreign affairs, said Tuesday.
Oryem, speaking Wednesday to VOA, added that Uganda will not be apologetic if Bashir chooses to come to the country.
He also said Uganda does not recognize the International Criminal Court, or ICC, which in 2009 issued a warrant for Bashir's arrest on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Sudan's Darfur region.
The head of the International Center for Transitional Justice in Uganda, Sarah Kasande, says Oryem's statement is an insult to Bashir's victims.
Kasande noted that Uganda ratified the Rome Statute which established the ICC, and says Uganda is legally obliged to arrest and surrender Bashir, should he enter the country.
But she stresses the 1951 Refugee Convention, which Uganda also signed, does not allow Bashir to enter that country.
"Article 1(f), it clearly excludes persons who are accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity from being granted asylum or refugee status," Kasande said. "The same provision is contained in our refugee act, section five, disqualifies persons who are accused of such heinous crimes from benefiting from asylum."
If anything, Kasande believes Uganda should prosecute Bashir, who it once accused of backing Lord's Resistance Army Rebel leader Joseph Kony. The LRA killed tens of thousands of people in northern Uganda before moving westward into Congo.
"They still have an obligation to prosecute him. How and whether they will do that is another matter," Kasande said. "But either way, he should face justice. But also, I find it quite disturbing that Uganda would dangle asylum to Bashir. He has not asked for asylum from Uganda. It is upon the people of Sudan to determine what happens to the fate of their ex-dictator."
Bashir is reportedly being held at a maximum-security prison, after initially being put under house arrest.