Hon Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine, Uganda’s star Presidential candidate, has asked the International Criminal Court to investigate his archrival, President Yoweri Museveni, and senior security officials for sanctioning human rights abuses in the run-up to next week’s presidential election.
The 38-year-old pop star-turned-politician is the main rival to veteran President Yoweri Museveni, 76, in the January 14 election, which will take place after a chaotic and violent campaign during which Bobi Wine has been arrested multiple times while campaigning for breaking laws governing public order and COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings.
Watchdogs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have said in recent statements that the authorities have violently repressed the opposition and its supporters during campaigning.
Security forces routinely disperse his rallies with tear gas, rubber bullets, beatings and detentions. At least 54 people died in protests that erupted when Wine was detained in November.
Kyagulanyi said his complaint would target Museveni and nine senior security officials accused of targeting him, his supporters and civil society activists.
“I hope that the International Criminal Court can call (Museveni) to order and remind him that he is also a human being,” Bobi Wine, dressed in his campaign trail outfit of a bulletproof vest and helmet, told journalists during a dramatic zoom news conference, which was disrupted when a police officer hauled him out of his vehicle through the window accusing him of being illegally parked.
Bobi Wine told reporters that his lawyer had submitted the filing to The Hague court on Thursday.
According to the opposition leader’s lawyer for the case, Bruce Afran, there is little international precedent for the case because the complainants hope to use ten samples of alleged offences stretching over a decade to prove “systemic” violations of international law based on a “history of torture and physical abuse” by the State.
The ICC has the authority to hear cases of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity committed in the 123 countries, including Uganda, that have signed up to it.
Uganda has in the past sought the ICC’s help in bringing leaders of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army to justice though it has more recently accused The Hague court of targeting Africans, a common sentiment on the continent.
The 41-page brief filed by Bobi Wine requests the ICC investigate Museveni, Security Minister Gen Elly Tumwine and eight senior security officials. It asks the ICC to consider incidents dating back to 2018, saying the police and military have deployed, “widespread use of shoot to kill, beatings and other violence”.
“As we do with all such communications, we will analyze the materials submitted, as appropriate, in accordance with the Rome Statute and with full independence and impartiality,” the office of the ICC prosecutor said.
The ICC receives hundreds of briefs a year and a filing does not automatically lead to any investigation.
Several individuals and groups have in the past petitioned the International Criminal Court (ICC) over President Museveni and other officials in his government but the court has not acted.
In true Big African man fashion, President Museveni during his inauguration speech on 12th May 2016 questioned the usefulness of the International Criminal Court (ICC); a court whose help he once sought in 2003 to deal with the Lord Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group then present in the northern part of his country. Equally to mention that Uganda is still signatory to the Rome statute, the law establishing the ICC while Domenic Ogwen, a Ugandan citizen is still under trial before the ICC.
In December last year the ICC threw out a petition to the court by the opposition politicians who wanted President Museveni charged for the massacre of the Kasese residents that left more than 100 people killed in the infamous 26th November 2016 joint police-military operations on Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu Palace in Kasese district.
The International Criminal Court said the clashes between the government and Rwenzururu kingdom, did not amount to crimes against humanity or genocide against the Bakonzo.
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