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Legal practitioner and Vice President of IMANI Africa, Kofi Bentil, has urged the Akufo-Addo government to revoke the refugee status given to the ex-GITMO detainees by the erstwhile Mahama administration and send them back to the United States.
According to him, the US’ unwillingness to readmit them following the expiration of their stay in Ghana is an “absolute betrayal of trust.”
The Foreign Affairs Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey Wednesday revealed that the duo— Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby will remain in Ghana despite the expiration of their stay in the country.
This was because the former administration had handed them a refugee status.
“It is to be noted that no exit arrangements were originally discussed between the two governments to end the bilateral arrangement at the time of negotiation. The US has also been clear in our discussions with them that per the agreement, returning them to the United States is not an option open to discussion or negotiation,” Mrs. Ayorkor Botchwey told parliament Wednesday.
“This means that all obligations relating to the two subjects [have] now become the responsibility of Ghana,” she added.
Reacting to the development in an interview with Starr News’ Atiewin Mbillah-Lawson, Mr. Bentil argued that granting the two ex-GITMO detainees refugee status was wrong because they did not qualify for that per section 16 of 1992 Constitution.
“You have to be qualified to be a refugee in Ghana. Our laws on giving refugees status is clear and if you look at section 16, if a refugee status is given to you it can be revoked if it is done in error,” he told Mbillah-Lawson.
“These people had a background. They didn’t come here by themselves. They came here in the custody of the US government. They didn’t come as refugees. They have a track record that does not qualify them to be refugees, so that refugee status itself I think it is wrong and can be revoked and we should just go by the original contract and send them back to the United States,” he added.
The two ex-GITMO detainees were admitted in the country in 2016 by the Mahama government and the Supreme Court last year declared as unconstitutional their admission.
The decision to host the detainees in Ghana provoked a firestorm of controversy and outrage among Ghanaians, with many expressing fear that the move would undermine Ghana’s internal security and expose the country to attacks from religious extremists.
The seven-member Supreme Court panel presided over by Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo by a six to one (6 -1) majority decision said the two are illegally staying in the country since the then government allowed them into the country without Parliamentary approval.
The consequential order of the court was that government should within three months subject the agreement to parliamentary consideration and approval or in default return the two ex-detainees.