the two Guantanamo ex-convicts, who were recently resettled in Ghana, must be sent back, the Christian Council of Ghana (CCG) has said.
The two ex-detainees: Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby, arrived in Ghana on Thursday January 7, 2016 for a two-year stay as part of a deal reached between the United States of America and the Government of Ghana.
Their transfer is the first of an expected 17 such transfers approved for January, the Pentagon announced Wednesday.
Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby were held for more than 13 years at the detention facility in Cuba. They were unanimously approved for transfer by the interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force, according to a Pentagon statement issued Wednesday afternoon.
The task force is comprised of six departments and agencies charged with determining which detainees can be safely transferred from the facility.
“The United States is grateful to the Government of Ghana for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility,” the statement read.
“The United States coordinated with the Government of Ghana to ensure these transfers took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures,” it added.
Guantanamo Bay now holds 105 detainees. Fifty-nine are not eligible for transfer for security reasons.
Defence Secretary Ash Carter last month notified Congress that 17 detainees would be transferred from the facility to other nations throughout January. Fifteen of them were transferred last year.
Bin Atef, according to the New York Times Guantanamo Docket, was born in 1979 in Saudi Arabia and fought with Osama Bin Laden’s 55th Arab Brigade and was an admitted member of the Taliban. He was captured in Afghanistan and transferred to U.S. custody about January 2002 after engaging in combat against the American-led coalition.
Like Bin Atef, Salih Al-Dhuby was born in Saudi Arabia and claims Yemeni citizenship, according to the New York Times Guantanamo Docket. The suspected Al-Qaida member was born in 1981 and was captured by Afghan forces in December 2001 following an explosion near Tora Bora. He’s been held in Guantanamo since May 2002.
President Barack Obama has promised to close the Guantanamo Bay facility since he was a candidate in 2008, but has struggled to do so amid Congressional opposition to move detainees to a prison in the United States. The 2016 National Defence Authorisation Act, passed in November, banned moving any detainees to the United States. Obama announced at the time he opposed that provision, but he signed the bill anyway.
The decision by the government of Ghana to accept the detainees has sparked public outcry in the small West African country. International relations expert Dr Vladimir Antwi-Danso, for instance, has said it could open up the country to security threats. Also, a former presidential advisor in the Kufuor administration, Vicky Bright, has said Ghana, by accepting the detainees, was importing trouble to its shores. Former Deputy Minister for the Interior, K.T. Hammond has said the two should be sent back to Guantanamo Bay. The Minority in Parliament has also raised concerns about the failure of the presidency to consult the House over the matter.
In a statement dated January 10, signed by General Secretary Rev. Dr. Kwabena Opuni-Frimpong, CCG said it has “observed with grave concern the lamentations and fears being expressed by most Ghanaians since news broke about the relocation of two Guantanamo Bay inmates with Al Qaeda ties to Ghana.”
“As a Council, we associate with the uncertainties and fears this issue has generated among our people, and requests that government should consider immediate recession of the decision and relocate the inmates outside the country.
“The non-engagement of civil society and other stakeholders on such sensitive security issue that affects the common good of the nation has put all of us at risk as the ordinary people don’t know what is required of them in the current potential security threat. In fact, the whole process lacks transparency.
“It will be recalled that, in 2007, the United States (US) government wanted to establish its African Command (AFRICOM) in Ghana and most Ghanaians and African countries kicked against it.
“The admission of the Guantanamo inmates into Ghana is no different from setting up an AFRICOM in Ghana.
“We are of the strongest view that, the inadequate public consultation and broader consensus building by government is exposing our nation and the entire sub-region to terrorist attack, and must be reversed,” the statement said.
The Council quoted Fox News as saying Bin Atef “is an admitted member of the Taliban and fought for Usama bin Laden, while [the other] Al-Dhuby trained with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan,” and that “the two inmates [who have spent close to 14 years in prison] are the first of a group of 17 detainees expected to be transferred out of Guantanamo Bay that includes “multiple bad guys” and “Al Qaeda followers.”
The Council said there are enough evidences “for us to believe that these inmates have Al Qaeda ties and put all of us at risk.”
“Government must answer the following questions and give further information about the whole thing;
1. Who is funding their stay in Ghana?
2. Will their families be allowed to visit them in Ghana?
3. Are they going to have any public interactions?
4. Are they going to be camped, restricted or reintegrated into the society as refugees?
5. Have Ghanaians been properly educated on public safety and security consciousness in the wake of terrorism?
6. Do we have what it takes to detect and deal with any threat of terrorism?
“We are very much aware that Ghana belongs to a community of nations which requires her to support international humanitarian efforts such as the provision of assistance to refugees and asylum seekers.
“However, the case of the Guantanamo inmates is entirely different and is not in our national interest. It is our hope and prayer that the President will listen to the lamentations of Ghanaians and quickly relocate the inmates,” CCG added.