Johannesburg – Ghana’s recent ruling that the transfer of two ex-Guantanamo Bay detainees to the country is ‘unconstitutional’ must be challenged. The men need urgent support so they can attempt to rebuild their lives in peace.
Mahmoud Omar Bin Atef and Khalid al Dhuby were cleared for release from the Cuban prison in 2009 but only transferred to Ghana in January last year, after being held for almost 15 years without charge. The Ghanian government said they could stay for two years subject to security checks.
Former president John Mahama assured Ghanians at the time that the men posed no security risk and appealed to the majority Christian nation’s sense of humanity.
However opposition to their presence brought on a political crisis, which critics say contributed to Mahama losing the election in November. Bin Atef’s lawyer has since declared that his client is being used as a ‘political football’.
Opposition has come especially from the powerful Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference, the Christian Council of Ghana and the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council.
Moazzam Begg, outreach director of CAGE, said:
“These two men were given sanctuary Ghana after extensive diplomatic assurances and agreements were made between the governments of the US and Ghana that they would be treated fairly and humanely. Both men had been held without charge or trial for fourteen years during which they were falsely imprisoned and subjected to torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”
“One of the men told me during a phone call that they were very grateful to Ghana and its people for accepting them and that this was good start to the long process of recovery from such an ordeal.”
“The current court ruling against the resettlement of these men breaches the agreements made with the US and, places them in a desperate situation. Ghana is one of over 50 countries to have accepted former Guantanamo prisoners and the suggestion that giving them refuge has posed major security risks is simply unfounded.”
Feroze Boda, of CAGE Africa, said:
“Bin Atef and al Dhuby cannot be returned to Yemen due to the war there. The United States will not have them either. This makes them refugees, and Ghana has international obligations to support them. Instead, they have become pawns in a political game.”
“The main reason for Ghana’s opposition to Bin Atef and al Dhuby was because organisations did not want to draw the country into the ‘War on Terror’ game. However, by making moves to withdraw their agreement to take the men, they are acting counter-productively by creating uncertainty.”
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)