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General News of Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Source: Kasapa FM

We can’t sack GITMO 2; our hands are tied – Foreign Affairs Minister

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, Thursday, said there is no way the Government of Ghana could ensure the exit of the two ex-Guantanamo Bay detainees, Mahmud Omar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby.

According to her, the hands of the Government are tied now considering the bilateral agreement the Mahama-led Government entered into with the United States of America.

“For now, we are saying that our hands are tied because they have been granted a legal status for them to stay here. On our side, I am going ahead to explore options. People who have been surveilled for two years, you can’t just cut the surveillance definitely you will have to continue the surveillance”, she told journalists moments after briefing Parliament over the status and decision of the Government of the Ghana on the two ex-Guantanamo Bay detainees

The duo, she added, were granted refugee status, making it very difficult to ensure their exit following the expiration of their two-year stay in Ghana.

“They were issued a decision letter dated July 21, 2016, recognizing their status as refugees. The implication is that in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the status of Refugees of 1951 and the 1967 Protocol on the Status of Refugees as well as Provisions of the Refugees Laws, 1992, PNDC Law 305D of Ghana, the two have attained the status of refugees in our country”, she explained.

She added, “The most essential component of refugee status and of asylum is protection against return to a country where a person has reason to fear persecution. This protection has found expression in the principle of non-refoulement which is widely accepted by States. The principle of non-refoulement has been identified in a number of international instruments relating to refugees and in the 1951 United Nations Convention on the Status of refugees, referred to above.

It provides no Contracting State shall expel or return a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. This provision constitutes one of the basic Articles of the 1951 Convention”.

According to Hon. Botchwey, in exploring options open to Government, they have hit two hurdles.

The first, being that, the agreement stipulates that “The government of Ghana is to take measures to facilitate the integration of Mr. Bin Atef and Mr. Al-Dhuby into the Ghanaian society”.

“What this means is that while the United States’ obligations end after two years, Ghana’s obligations continue even after that”, she added.

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