The US government says it has no interest whatsoever in what Ghana does with the two ex-Guantanamo detainees currently in the country.
US Ambassador to Ghana, Robert Jackson, said Umar Bin Atef and Khalid Al-Dhuby, ceased to be the responsibilities of the US government effective January 6, 2018, when the original deal for their two-year stay ended.
Ghana’s Foreign Minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, last week announced that the two detainees were granted refugees status by the Mahama administration, a situation that makes it difficult for Ghana to send them away without their input.
Speaking to journalists in Tamale, Mr. Jackson said the decision by the previous Mahama administration to grant the two refugee status, came to him as a surprise.
“I did not know until this week that they have been granted refugee status. That came as a surprise to me as much as it came to all of you. However, that decision does give them certain rights, and if the government of Ghana wishes to relocate them to a third country and they need to discuss that, we have no role in that… It is between the government of Ghana and the two refugees,” the US Ambassador said.
“The agreement said Ghana would keep them for two years and integrate them during that time. It also said the United States will provide for their daily living expenses, so for two years we paid for their living expenses and gave them a stipend for food and other living expenses, toiletries etc.,” he added.
The move to host the two in the country was criticized by many observers including the then-in-opposition New Patriotic Party, who described the two as a security threat despite assurances to the contrary by the US.
Two citizens; Margaret Bamful and Henry Nana Boakye, further sued the former Attorney General and the Minister of Interior contending that the two were being hosted illegally.
The two were justified by the Supreme Court, which declared as unconstitutional the agreement between the Mahama government and the United States.
The apex court ordered the government to send the agreement to Parliament for ratification or have the two detainees sent back to the US.
According to the judgment, the government needed the approval of Parliament before entering into any international agreement, just as in the case of the two detainees.
When the matter came up for discussion in Parliament, the House was informed that the agreement was reached under a note verbale and Memorandum of Understanding.
A note verbale is a piece of diplomatic correspondence prepared in the third person and unsigned. Parliament subsequently ratified the agreement for the two for detainees to be in the country.
‘Gov’t could withdraw refugee status’
Although the Foreign Affairs Minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey had recently stated that the refugee status conferred on the two will make their return difficult, a former Deputy Attorney General, Dominic Ayine, subsequently suggested that government could withdraw that status and return them if their stay is not in the interest of the country.
“Under our refugee law, as quoted by the Minority Leader, the refugee status can be withdrawn, so it is left with this government to take that step if they so think that the presence of the two persons on Ghanaian soil is inimical to the interest of the people of this country,” he said.