Secretary General Kurt Waldhelm called on Ugandan President Idi Amin today to permit "an impartial international investigation" of the deaths of an Anglican archbishop and two Cabinet ministers in Kampala last week.
It was the first formal act of intervention in the Uganda situation by an international agency.
It is rare for a U.N. secretary general to press openly for an international investigation of domestic human rights violations within a country. The last time Waldheim spoke out in this fashion was to press the Chilean government to account for charges of widespread human rights violations there. That led to the establishment of the U.N. committee to investigate alleged Chilean violations.
Archbishop Janani Luwum and Cabinet ministers erinayo Oreyema and Charles Oboth-ofumbi died last week shortly after their arrest on charges of plotting against Amin. The Ugandan leader claimed that they died in a car crash after they tried to overpower the driver of the car but there have been widespread reports that the three men were killed.
Meanwhile, reports from the Ugandan capital, Kampala, quoted sources there as saying that "several hundred" members of the Acholi and Langi tribes were executed Tuesday night as part of Amin's campaign against the two predominantly Christian tribes. Refugees fleeing Uganda said deaths since last week number in the thousands.
Waldheim relayed his official request through Ugandan U.N. Ambassador Khalid Younis Kinene. U.N. officials said that Kinene replied today that Amin had "taken note" of the proposal. After Waldheim pressed him a second time on the investigation, the Ugandan diplomat said that he would be in contact with the secretary general on the matter at a later date, a U.N. spokesman said.
"The secretary general had in mind an investigation acceptable to the government of Uganda and whose findings could be completely acceptable to world public opinion," the spokesman said.
Waldheim suggested that the investigation could be conducted either by the Organization of African Unity or the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
The commission, currently in closed session in Geneva, has on its agenda the larger question of alleged massive violations of human rights in Uganda.
U.N. officials here reported that in the closed meetings in Geneva, the British, with U.S. support, have raised the prospect of a Human Rights Commission mission to Uganda to look into the overall situation there, including the three deaths.
Allard Lowenstein, the chief American representative at the commission meetings, returned to the United States today for consultations at the State Department.
Waldheim based his request for an investigation on a statement contained in a letter sent by Amin to the OAU, in which the Ugandan president said: ". . . any government is welcome to send a delegation to Uganda to see for themselves what has taken place."
Waldheim has asked Uganda for a "clarification" on whether the invitation applies to all governments, or only to African nations.
Waldheim is expected to discuss the Uganda situation Friday with President Carter during an official White House visit.
Carter, at his news conference yesterday, said that recent events in Uganda had "disgusted the entire civilized world."
Waldheim, in suggesting that the OAU might be one agency to conduct an investigationin Uganda, apparently hoped to stimulate action by the African group. He met with the OAU representative, Mustafa Sam, to discuss possible action on the Uganda front.
Amin's claim that an invasion force was poised six miles from the Ugandan border in neighboring Tanzania was termed "absolute balderdahs" by a Tanzanian government spokesman today, news dispatches from Nairobi, Kenya, said. Radio Uganda quoted a "military spokesman" generally considered to be Amin, as warning a swift retaliation if the alleged invaders "attempt to enter Ugandan territory by even an inch." The radio also said that Libya had "placed all its armed forces at the disposal of the Ugandan government."
In London, British officials hinted that Amin might be barred from Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee celebrations - even if he could not be stopped from coming to London for the Commonwealth summit in June. Liberal Party leader David Steel and eight other Liberal lawmakers signed a motion calling on the British government to press for the suspension of Uganda from the 26-nation Commonwealth.
[The Nairobi Standard newspaper reported that the widow of Archbishop Luwum and her five children arrived in the north Kenyan border town of Kisumu after a "hazardous journey from Kampala." An Anglican church spokesman in Kisumu said, however, that Mrs. Luwum had not contacted church officials there.]