Why we sent Guantanamo detainees to Ghana – US government

The US government through its embassy in Accra has thrown light on the circumstances leading to the transfer of two detainees of Yemeni origin to Ghana from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba.

In a statement issued in Accra on Thursday, the US government said the transfer was in line with its policy to reduce the detainee population at Guantanamo and to close the detention facility “in a responsible manner”.

The statement said while the US would have loved to repatriate the detainees to their home countries, in some cases, the most viable option was to resettle them in a third country.

The government of Ghana’s decision to accept the two detainees, Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih, who are believed to have ties to  Al Qaeda, has 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.

An International Relations expert, Professor Keith Bluwey, told Accra-based Starr FM on Thursday that the decision was “reckless” and “dangerous”, adding that the government was only interested in the financial benefits that it may derive from it.

“It is not in our interest, these people are not ordinary refugees who are being found places of rest, these are criminals, terrorists to the core, Osama Bin Laden activists and they should have no place in Ghana,’ he said.

In its statement, the US government noted that Ghana was aware of potential threats posed by the two detainees  and had taken measures to mitigate those threats, adding that their transfer had been approved by the Inter-agency Guantanamo Review Task Force after a “comprehensive review” of their cases.

It said: “The decision to transfer a detainee is made only after detailed, specific conversations with the receiving country about the potential threat a detainee may pose after transfer and the measures the receiving country will take in order to sufficiently mitigate that threat, and to ensure humane treatment.

“The United States coordinated with the Government of Ghana to ensure these transfers took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures.”

The US went on to commend the government of Ghana for what it said was the West African country’s “humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility”.

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