Ghana joins Cape Verde and Algeria as resettlement countries for Guantanamo Bay detainees

Reuters reported, this morning, that two Yemeni detainees from Guantanamo Bay are being released and will be resettled in Ghana. Prior to this time, both young men, Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih al-Dhuby, were interviewed by Ghana’s Ambassador to the United States and expressed confidence that the detainees will not pose any risk to the country.

According to the New York Times, Khalid Muhammad Salih al-Dhuby, a Yemeni citizen, was born in Saudi Arabia in 1981. He traveled to Afghanistan to fight and was assessed to be “a probable member” of al-Qaeda. He surrendered to Afghan forces, was turned over to the United States and was sent to Guantanamo Bay in May 2002. In 2006, the Pentagon’s Joint Task Force at Guantanamo Bay recommended he be transferred out of its custody. Mahmaud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef was identified by the documents as a Yemeni citizen born in 1979 in Saudi Arabia. He was handed over to the United States after his capture by Northern Alliance Forces in Afghanistan in November 2001.

Reuters reports that, according to Ghana’s Foreign Minister Hanna Tetteh, Ghana has granted permission for the two men to remain in the country for two years and be subjected to security clearances as well as having their activities monitored.

Guantanamo Bay detention camp was established in 2002 for particularly dangerous criminals. Research carried out by the Program on International Policy (PIP) provides; “Large majorities in Germany and Great Britain and pluralities in Poland and India, believe the United States has committed violations of international law at its prison on Guantánamo Bay, including the use of torture in interrogations.”

Recently, there have been calls for the shutdown of the prison camp. For example, President Obama who is one of those in support of the shutdown has appealed to countries around the world to help resettle detainees. According to the Wall Street Journal, Obama has referred to the camp as a national security threat and a recruitment tool for terrorists. Popular culture has also featured a series of movies and documentaries on events that occur within the confines of the prison. The following statistics from Human Rights First, shows the current status of Guantanamo Bay.

Human Rights First
Human Rights First

As Ghana takes its first Guantanamo detainees, it should be lauded for this act of altruism, however, it is not the only African country to receive Guantanamo detainees in an effort to resettle them. In 2010, Algerian native, Abdul Aziz Naji who was held without official charges in Guantanamo Bay since 2002, was returned to his country, Algeria by the Obama administration. Also, Syrian, Abd-al-Nisr Mohammed Khantumani, a veteran of the Syrian army was held in Guantanamo Bay on grounds of being an experienced jihadist. He was transferred to the Guantanamo facility in 2002 but was allowed to resettle in Cape Verde in 2010.

Now that plans have been made to resettle these men in Ghana, it begs the question- does the country have the necessary requirements to provide for them adequately? The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) gives guidelines on resettlement of refugees. For former Guantanamo detainees, it appears to be a whole different game as there are no clear standard laws on how they should be treated once they arrive in these countries to resettle.

However, an advocacy organisation, CAGE Africa, appears to be working in defense of Guantanamo Bay detainees, as they petitioned South Africa last year to accept detainees in order to help them rebuild their lives. Perhaps all Ghana needs is to adopt the same open mindedness.

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