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Will MPs ratify Gitmo 2?

Gitmo 1 Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby

Sun, 25 Jun 2017 Source: Elvis Darko

THE order by the Supreme Court that the agreement covering the hosting of two Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo) detainees should be sent to parliament for retrospective approval immediately shifts the spotlight on this controversial matter to Members of Parliament (MPs).

In the event that parliament fails to approve the agreement retrospectively, the Supreme Court has ordered that the two detainees should be sent back to the United States of America.

It is feared that returning the detainees to United States of America could strain relations between the two countries.

The two Guantanamo Bay detainees, Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef, and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby, were in detention under the auspices of the United States government for 14 years after being linked with the terrorist group, Al-Qaeda, but were brought to Ghana in 2016, to be reintegrated into society.

The order follows the Court’s declaration that the agreement between the Governments of Ghana and the United States of America to admit the two Gitmo detainees into Ghana was unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court said the then President, John Dramani Mahama, by agreeing for the transfer of the two, required ratification by an Act of Parliament. Opposition to Gitmo 2

Opposition and church groups had condemned the decision, saying the men were a security threat.

The influential Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference called the Yemenis "time bombs" who should be "sent back to wherever they came from".

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) said that official US documents showed the men had "violent and dangerous profiles".

The governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) chastised the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and President John Mahama for accepting the two detainees without parliamentary approval.

For those who opposed the two detainees staying in Ghana, they would be keen to know whether NPP MPs would approve or reject the agreement when presented to parliament.

Madam Margaret Bamful and Henry Nana Boakye, in 2016, sued the Attorney General and Minister of Justice as well as the Minister of Interior, accusing government of illegally bringing in the two former Gitmo detainees, without recourse to the laws of the land.

The plaintiffs were, therefore, seeking a true and proper interpretation of Article 75 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, which states that “(1) The President may execute or cause to be executed treaties, agreements or conventions in the name of Ghana.

“(2) A treaty, agreement or convention executed by or under the authority of the President shall be subject to ratification by (a) Act of Parliament; or (b) a resolution of Parliament supported by the votes of more than one-half of all the members of Parliament.”

The applicants claimed that the President of the Republic of Ghana acted unconstitutionally by agreeing to the transfer of Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby to Ghana.

The seven-member Supreme Court panel, presided over by the Chief Justice, Sophia Akuffo, in a 6-1 majority decision, said the two are illegally in the country since the then government allowed them into the country without prior approval by Parliament.

It said the agreement reached by the Government of Ghana and the United States was one that falls directly under the purview of the provisions of Article 75 of the 1992 Constitution and the then government ought to have sought parliamentary approval before the two detainees were admitted into the country.

The court consequently ordered that the Government of Ghana should, within three months, submit the agreement to parliament for ratification, or the two shall be returned to the government of the United States of America.

No security threat – US Embassy

The US Embassy in Ghana had in January 2016, assured Ghanaians that the presence of the two former detainees, posed no threat to the security of the country.

President Mahama defended Gitmo 2

President strongly defended the government's decision to allow two Yemenis freed from Guantanamo Bay to live in the West African state. He said a Ghanaian was more likely to die in a road accident than at the hands of the Yemenis.

Compassion

The President said Ghana had been home to refugees and that there were many Africans who chose to live in Ghana when they found their home countries unsafe to live in.

He added that the country had always shown compassion to other nationals in danger and that as part of the larger global community, it was proper to receive the detainees on compassionate grounds.

Gitmo 2 say they support black starts

The men said they looked forward to living in Ghana, and had followed the national football team in prison.

Al-Dhuby and Atef denied belonging to militant groups. "We have been wrongly arrested for 14 years without any charge against us," Mr Atef said, adding that "We have suffered but we are not looking for revenge”.

Atef said they were huge fans of Ghana footballer Asamoah Gyan, and many of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay supported the Black Stars at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

"When Ghana beat America, we were very happy. We made some celebrations. We also told the guards that we've won," Mr Atef said.

Columnist: Elvis Darko