London – CAGE has received deeply concerning reports that the Government of Senegal has issued an order to deport two former Guantanamo prisoners to their native home, Libya.
Salem Abdul Salem Ghereby (right) and Omar Khalifa Mohammed Abu Baker (left) are both Libyan nationals who were resettled in Senegal after spending 14 years imprisoned by the US military at Guantanamo. Neither was ever convicted or even charged with a crime.
In 2016, following a US-Senegal agreement, the men were taken to Dakar where they were freed and allowed to begin rebuilding their lives. At the time, Senegalese Minister of Justice Sidiki Kaba said: “These are simply men who we must help because they are African sons who have been tested for years…It is important these detainees be able to have access to humanitarian asylum.”
In turn, the men settled into their new home and begun the difficult task of rebuilding their lives. In a conversation with CAGE Outreach Director, Moazzam Begg, Omar Khalifa said:
“Despite the hardships we’ve had to endure over the years, I love Senegal and its people. We have been welcomed here and accepted by ordinary people. They are warm, friendly and accepting. I feel happy here. It is a African Muslim society and I fit in easily. I am engaged and plan to marry very soon.”
However, the men have now received notice from the Senegalese government informing them that they have a few days before they are deported to Libya. Omar Khalifa told CAGE:
“We received a handwritten notice saying a decision has been made to return us to Libya on 3rd April, without any explanation. Shortly after that I was called to the Libyan embassy in Dakar to discuss the matter.
“I left Libya over two decades ago and would like nothing more than to see my family after all these years but, they have told me – as well as the Red Cross – that I should not come back. It is simply not safe for me. Even officials at the embassy told me they could not guarantee my – or anybody’s – safety in Libya.”
CAGE calls on the government of Senegal to uphold its original humanitarian intervention on behalf of these men and its agreement with the US not to deport them to Libya while they are at risk of arbitrary imprisonment, torture and execution.
Moazzam Begg, CAGE Outreach Director said:
“The US resettlement programme for Gitmo prisoners has had some success stories. This could have been one of them. The stigma of being a Gitmo captive will always hang over your head – even in stable countries. Imagine then being sent to a place where there is no stable government, where there is civil war, where militias control cities and arms are awash and, where ISIS has the biggest foothold outside of Iraq and Syria. Forcibly deporting these men to Libya would be a clear breach of the agreement between the two nations.
“I met Omar when we were imprisoned together in Bagram. Despite being an amputee the Americans would deny him his prosthetic leg or crutches and he would have to crawl just to use the bathroom. That was the start of his 14-year prison ordeal. He’s suffered enough.”
(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.)