The Attorney General William Byaruhanga on Tuesday told parliament that Uganda is still cooperating with the International Criminal Court (ICC) despite the country’s reservations with how the court has related with Africa since 2009.
He said Uganda like many other African states wants reforms in the Rome statute so that the ICC is something that the African Union (AU) can associate itself with, instead of leaving.
Byaruhanga said this while presenting a statement on the position of Uganda regarding the ICC. He told parliament that the decision as to whether Uganda stays or leaves the ICC is still an on-going debate in Cabinet.
He also reiterated that he was asked during a meeting by state members at The Hague last November whether Uganda would quit ICC.
“On 16th and 22nd November, 2016, I represented Uganda at the 16th session of the Assembly of states parties of the Rome statute of the ICC. On an inquiry, whether Uganda, intended to withdraw from the Rome statute, my responses was that government has not notified any person or organization that it was or is withdrawing”, said Byaruhanga.
He said accordingly, the apprehension that Uganda is withdrawing from the Rome statute both within Uganda and abroad is purely based on conjecture.
Byaruhanga was responding to a matter of concern raised by Ojara Okin (Chwa West Mp) that Uganda was in the process of withdrawing from ICC, yet there are pending cases referred to the Court by her.
However, his presentation sparked off debate on all sides of the house with members tasking the government to pronounce itself on the status of Uganda’s membership to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Legislators said Byaruhanga’s statement was not clear and that government has continued to give contradictory statements about its intention to either remain or exit the ICC.
Bernard Atiku (Ayivu) said that it was premature and unnecessary for Uganda to withdraw from the ICC yet its people are to benefit from the Court proceedings. “We should support the ICC and continue cooperating with it so that we live in dignity,” Atiku said.
William Nzoghu (Busongora North) added that the people of Kasese district will be very disappointed in the Parliament if Uganda exists from the ICC.
“It is this Parliament that ratified Uganda’s membership to the ICC. We should accept that Uganda is bigger than we are, and will exist after us, before we let something like this happen,” Nzoghu said, adding that, “As MPs and in the interest of justice and international unity let us support co-operation with ICC.”
Nzoghu said that the government exists with the mandate of the people and should therefore function with reality. He added that it is unfair for the government to consider withdrawing from the ICC.
“We the people of Kasese have already taken three Ugandans to the ICC, including President Yoweri Museveni in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of armed forces, Brig Peter Elwelu, and Assistant Inspector General of Police Asuman Mugenyi for the attacks that left several people dead in the region last November”, said Nzoghu.
Patrick Nsamba Oshabe (Kassanda North) added that the President of Uganda has often spoken clearly against ICC yet it is imbedded in the laws of the country. “We as Ugandans demand a clear stand on the position of the government on whether, after adopting the ICC, it is still interested in conforming to it,” Nsamba said.
Jacqueline Amongin (Ngora District woman) said that she had learnt that in the recent African Union Heads of State Summit, there was a decision taken that member states were free to choose to either remain as members of the ICC or leave. “My question to the government therefore is; what is our stand as Uganda? Are we going to leave or not?” Amongin asked.
The Attorney General responded saying that though many of the African states noticed a continuous trend of favoritism on the side of the ICC when executing its mandate, the decision for Uganda to leave is still an on-going debate in cabinet.
On May 12, 2016, while giving his inaugural speech after swearing in for the 5th term at Kololo independence grounds, Museveni mocked the International Criminal Court (ICC) calling it “a bunch of useless people”.