Popular legal practitioner Ace Ankomah, has rubbished President John Mahama’s defence for accepting the two hardcore terrorists on the orders of the United States government.
Mr. Ankomah said the president created the impression as if he (Mr. Mahama) was the one personally hosting the suspected terrorists – Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby – and not the people of Ghana, even though he accepted them on behalf of the country.
He also pointed out the inconsistencies in the defence put up by the president and his Foreign Minister, Hannah Tetteh, on the issue and said the whole deal should have been approved by Parliament.
“President Mahama says: ‘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 in the words of the Foreign Minister: ‘At the request of the US Government we have also agreed to accept two detainees of Yemeni origin who were detained in Guantanamo but who have been cleared of any involvement in any terrorist activities and are being released.’”
Using Article 75 of the 1992 Constitution to make a point, Lawyer Ankomah said it says that all “treaties, agreements and conventions” entered into/executed by the president (ostensibly on Ghana’s behalf) will require parliamentary ratification before they will have binding effect on Ghana.
“When the President, in Hanna Tetteh’s words, ‘agreed’ at the request of the US government to accept these persons into Ghana, he was acting within the power conferred on him by Article 75,” adding “he was not acting in his personal name or capacity.”
“It is Ghana (not him) that now has the obligation to keep these men here for at least two years. There may not be a treaty, but there is an agreement, whether or not it is in writing,” Mr Ankomah stressed.
He underscored, “The president appears to argue that once there is no treaty or formal ‘agreement’ relating to the men, there is nothing to seek and obtain parliamentary ratification for.
“That argument suggests that a government can simply by-pass Article 75 by not reducing such agreements into writing, and then there would be no need for the mandatory parliamentary ratification.
“That would drive horses and chariots through the concept of separation of powers, which is captured and enshrined in that Article, and recognised by Atuguba JSC in Amidu v. Kufuor, that the president has the prerogative to enter into such agreements/treaties; however any such agreement/treaty is subject to parliamentary ratification.”
There has been public resentment in the country since the Mahama-led NDC government announced that two Al-Qaeda foot-soldiers had arrived from Guantanamo Bay where they spent more than a decade in detention and were to be hosted by the people of Ghana for the next two years.
The president, in justifying what has turned out to be an unpopular decision, insinuated that those who were against the hosting of the terrorists did not have compassion.
In spite of his appeal for compassion, several religious bodies, including the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the Christian Council as well as the Pentecostal Council and the Sunni Sect in Ghana, have expressed their disgust at the hosting of the Al-Qaeda terrorists.
The Catholic Bishops, who have threatened to stage a demonstration over the reckless action, have described President Mahama’s decision as “wrong and dangerous,” while the Christian Council has said the men’s presence could endanger national security.
“We, the members of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference have received news of the transfer of two former Guantanamo Bay prisoners, namely, Mahmoud Omar Mohammed Bin Atef (36 years) and Khalid Shayk Mohammed (34 years), to Ghana with great distress and sadness and wish to call on our government to return them immediately,” they said in a statement recently.
In a related development, the British High Commissioner, Jon Benjamin, has admonished Ghanaians to be on the look-out as the ex-Guantanamo Bay detainees continue to stay in the country.
“It takes a few people to create carnage and no one should be complacent. We should be very vigilant because it’s a real threat to us all,” he told an Accra-based radio station – Live FM – yesterday.
“This is essentially a bilateral issue between US, and Ghana. Here we are in January, the election here is 7th November; we are already in election season in some sense. What I won’t be doing is allowing anyone to drag us to make party political points on either side,” Mr Benjamin stated.
By William Yaw Owusu