U.S. Sends Two Guantánamo Detainees to Ghana
WASHINGTON — The United States on Wednesday transferred to Ghana two Yemeni men who had been imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for nearly 14 years, the Pentagon said. The transfer marked the start of what is expected to be a flurry of 17 departures in early 2016. The transfers also represented the first time that lower-level detainees have been resettled in sub-Saharan Africa, suggesting that the State Department is widening the aperture of its diplomatic efforts to find homes for those on the transfer list. After the resettlement, 105 detainees remain at Guantánamo, and 46 are recommended for transfer. “The United States is grateful to the
humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility,” a Pentagon spokesman, Cmdr. Gary Ross, said in a statement. Ghana’s Foreign Ministry said the two Yemeni men would stay for two years, according to The Associated Press.
The ministry said that Ghana was also taking in two people from Rwanda who had been tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The two people were part of a group of defendants who had been acquitted or had served their sentences. The military identified the two Yemeni men transferred to Ghana as Khalid Mohammed Salih al-Dhuby and Mahmmoud Omar Mohammed Bin Atef. Both were born in Saudi Arabia but are considered citi- zens of Yemen based on their family and tribal ties, according to military dossiers leaked by Pvt. Chelsea Manning.
The men’s dossiers contend that each went to Afghanistan before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and were captured by Afghan forces in late 2001 and turned over to the United States. Some of the claims in the leaked dossiers have been contested by detainees or their lawyers or undercut by other evidence..
In 2009, each man was unanimously recommended for transfer by a six- agency task force, if security conditions could be met in the receiving country. But they remained stranded as wartime detainees because of persistent chaos in their native Yemen. Neither was ever charged with a crime.
Mr. Bin Atef’s dossier says he was a survivor of a well-known week long fight in late November 2001 at the Qala-i-Jangi fortress near Mazar-i- Sharif, where the Northern Alliance had taken hundreds of captured Taliban and foreign fighters.
During an uprising among the prisoners, a C.I.A. paramilitary operative was killed, as were hundreds of the captured fighters, many of whom had spent days hiding in tunnels that Northern Alliance forces flooded with water. The dossier does not accuse Mr. Bin Atef of personal involvement in the C.I.A. operative’s death.
Mr. Dhuby’s dossier, written in late 2006, said he had been mostly com- pliant with the guard force as a Guan-
tánamo detainee. Mr. Bin Atef’s dossier, written in late 2007, said he had participated in protests by the prisoners and had threatened guards, including vowing to find out their identities and “sneak into their homes and cut their throats like sheep.” George Clarke, a lawyer for Mr. Bin Atef, said that his client had become “frustrated” by his predicament in being imprisoned for years without trial and had responded by acting out and saying “stupid things.” But he said that the comments had been made a “long time ago.”
Mr. Clarke said that in his interactions with Mr. Bin Atef since he started representing him about six months ago, he had found him to be a “friendly, nice guy” who was “positive and has a good attitude.”
“He is very appreciative and happy the Ghanians are taking him,” Mr. Clarke said.