Security Analyst, Irbard Ibrahim, has urged the Ghana government to take in more Guantanamo Bay ex-detainees as they are distressed by many years of unjustifiable detention.
His suggestion comes on the heels of government’s decision to allow two such detainees remain in the country as refugees after their two-year stay expired.
In August last year, parliament ratified an agreement to allow the two, Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby, to stay in Ghana, following a Supreme Court order. The Court had earlier ruled that their stay in Ghana was unconstitutional without parliamentary backing.
In January 2016, the John Mahama-led government accepted the transfer of the two Yemeni ex-detainees from the United States of America into the country for a period of two years which ended earlier in January 2018.
Reacting to government’s decision to allow the two men to stay in the country, Mr Ibrahim said government’s position “should put to rest all the obscurities and uncertainties surrounding the future of the two gentlemen in Ghana.”
According to him, the two men reserve every right to remain in Ghana until they are dead.
In his view, “Ghana’s hospitality, compassion and kindness towards them will consolidate the bilateral ties between Ghana and the United States. This kind gesture puts Ghana in the same league with prominent humanitarian countries around the world.”
He added that Ben Atef and Al-Dhuby have not killed even a fly and, therefore, do not pose any national security threat to Ghanaians.
To this end, the security analyst said: “I urge Ghana to take in more Gitmo detainees as they are distressed by many years of unjustifiable detention.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey told parliament on Wednesday, 24 January 2018 that the two ex-detainees have become Ghana’s responsibility.
Ms Botchwey told the legislators that: “No exit arrangements were originally discussed between the two governments to end the bilateral arrangement at the time of negotiations. The U.S. has also been clear that discussions with them over the agreement or returning them to the United States is not an option open to discussion or negotiation.
“This means that all obligations relating to the two subjects has now become the responsibility of Ghana. Mr Speaker, in exploring options opened to government, we have hit two hurdles – the first hurdle being that the agreement that was signed between the previous government and the United States stipulates that: ‘The government of Ghana is to take measures to facilitate the integration of Mr Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby into Ghanaian society’.
“What this means is that while the United States’ obligations ends after two years, Ghana’s obligation continue even after that. In addition and even more significant, the Ministry for the Interior has informed my ministry of records at the Refugee Board which reveal that the government at the time granted the two detainees refugee status.
“This follows requests by the National Security to then-Chairman of the National Refugee Board. They were issued a decision letter dated 21 July 2016, recognising their status as refugees. The implication is that in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the status of refugees of 1951 and the 1967 Protocol of the Status of Refugees, as well as the provision of the Refugee Law 1992, PNDC law 305D of Ghana, the two have attained the status of refugees in our country. The most essential component of refugee status and asylum is protection against return to a country where a person has reason to fear persecution…” the minister explained.
She added that “government is constrained to explore any further option at this time and will await an in-depth examination of the matter by appropriate agencies.”