The two ex-Guantanamo Bay detainees got married while in Ghana, Foreign Affairs Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey has said.
“Both of them have married…but no, not to Ghanaians,” she told journalists on Wednesday, 24 January after announcing to parliament that the two have become Ghana’s responsibility and, so, will not return to their country.
Ms Botchwey told parliament 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.”
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.
The decision to host them created a controversy and public outcry among Ghanaians, with many expressing fear that the move would undermine Ghana’s internal security and expose the country to attacks from religious extremists.