A day after Ghana’s Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional the admission of two terror suspects from Guantanamo Bay, the US government has said it respects Ghana’s rights and its judicial processes.
In a terse comment to Myjoyonline.com, the spokesperson of the US Embassy in Ghana, Sara Stealy said: “We respect Ghana’s right, as a sovereign nation, to its own judicial review process. This is an internal Ghanaian matter; we would refer all questions to the Ghanaian government.”
She would not comment any further, except with the officials of the new Ghanaian government which inherited the controversial agreement under which the two terror suspects- Muhammed Al-Dhuby and Muhammed Bin-Atef were brought to Ghana.
Ex-president John Mahama in a decision that triggered lots of controversy decided, in January 2016, to provide shelter to the two terror suspects who had been in detention at the Guantanamo Bay for over 14 years.
The two were picked up in connection with the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in the US.
At the closing embers of his tenure, the then US President Barrack Obama devised a programme to shut down the Guantanamo Bay that had kept suspected terrorists for years.
In a close-door arrangement with the previous government, Ghana offered to accept two of the suspects, a decision which did not go down well with a lot of Ghanaians. The then opposition New Patriotic Party, civil society organisations, religious groups protested the decision to allow the suspects to come to Ghana.
But the then president defended his action.
“With regard to Gitmo, when I talked about consultation, I talk about consultations on the security levels. I was not saying that we went and spoke to every pastor and every Imam to ask whether we should bring the Guantanamo Bay detainees. But we did extensive consultations at the security level to ensure that there was no danger to our safety and security and those consultations were external, they were internal, and that’s what I was referring to.
“This is a matter of security, it’s not an international treaty, and, so, it’s not something that we were required to take to parliament and that’s why it didn’t go to parliament, but as I said, as commander-in-chief, I mean I stand to lose the most if I jeopardised the security of this nation, and, so, we did a lot of work, with our partners and I believe that the collaboration we are having with our international partners is positive,” the president said in an interaction with the media.
He also stated that the two suspects were innocent young men picked up and jailed for 14 years without merit and had to be given some compassion.
The US government also supported the decision. In the heat of the controversy, Sarah Stealy told Joy FM’s Top Story Tuesday the decision to transfer the Yemeni nationals to any country is based on an assessment that “any threat they pose could be mitigated by the receiving country.”
But two Ghanaians, 86-year-old retired conference officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Margaret Bamford and a student at the Ghana School of Law, Henry Nana Boakye- decided to challenge the decision in court.
They argued the agreement was an international treaty which required ratification by Parliament and therefore proceeded to the Supreme Court for a true and proper interpretation of Article 75 of the 1992 Constitution.
The Article (75) (2) reads: “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 court agreed with them and in a 6-1 majority decision ruled the decision by ex-president John Mahama to allow the two terror suspects into the country was unconstitutional.
The court said the agreement ought to have been sent to Parliament for ratification. As a consequential order, it directed the government to, within three months bring the agreement for ratification in Parliament or have the two deported.
The government has said it will act on the matter as expeditiously as possible.
The Minority Leader Haruna Iddrissu in an interview with Joy News said the Supreme Court ruling against the previous government’s decision to shelter two terror suspects from Guantanamo Bay is a display of Ghana’s separation of powers at work.
He said the highest court of the land has shown it has the powers to keep the executive in check while directing the legislature to “play its rightful role.”
He was quick to add though that, the ex-president’s action was informed by diplomacy and not based on a treaty agreement. He was however content with the decision of the Supreme Court.