Accra, Ghana | AFP | Ghana’s Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the transfer of two former Guantanamo Bay detainees to the country was unconstitutional without parliamentary approval.
Ghana had signed an agreement with the US government in January 2016 allowing the two ex-Guantanamo prisoners to live in the country.
Later that year, two Ghanaians went to court over the transfer of the men saying that then-President John Mahama had acted unconstitutionally by accepting them.
“It is hereby ordered that unless within three months the government submit the agreement to parliament… the two detainees shall be returned to the US,” said Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo in the judgement.
The United States had claimed that the two Yemeni men, Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih al-Dhuby, were linked to terrorist groups.
But after spending over 10 years in prison, Atef and Dhuby were among 17 detainees deemed low-risk and approved for transfer from Guantanamo in 2016 by the Pentagon.
They were among the first detainees to be sent to sub-Saharan Africa.
One of Atef’s lawyers, who did not want to be named, said that Atef’s transfer to Ghana had become “highly politicised, thus making our client’s reintegration into society uniquely challenging”.
In a short exchange with AFP, Atef said he was “really sick” and “I’m sorry I can’t talk”.
US President Barack Obama pledged to shut the controversial Guantanamo facility when he took office in 2009 but the facility remains open.
After years of shrinking operations at the notorious military prison — a lightening rod for anti-American sentiment — the inmate population was down to 41 as of January.