Mapping the secretive organization under scrutiny over its arrest of LGBTQ people in Ghana

When Khalea Lascelles wrote for The Daily Beast about the imprisonment and beatings suffered by gay men in Ghana, several readers contacted her. One of them, Margot, confirmed that she was working at a…

Mapping the secretive organization under scrutiny over its arrest of LGBTQ people in Ghana

When Khalea Lascelles wrote for The Daily Beast about the imprisonment and beatings suffered by gay men in Ghana, several readers contacted her. One of them, Margot, confirmed that she was working at a think tank with connections to a group called the Western Sahara Institute, a U.S.-based think tank that specializes in training police officers in topics such as ethics and policing, according to their website.

The institute, which was started in 2005 by Anthony Getzug, helps to develop a police force in western Sahara, an area that has been ruled by Morocco since 1976, when it invaded the territory. Western Sahara is also claimed by the Polisario Front, an independence-minded group. Recently, both Getzug and the institute have come under scrutiny. They have been accused of having an agenda against immigrants in the U.S. during the recent government shutdown. And Getzug was indicted in 2015 in a failed terrorist plot to bomb U.S. government buildings and a Philadelphia military base, the Associated Press reported at the time. Police are currently looking into whether Getzug was involved in any recent crackdown on LGBTQ communities in Ghana.

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Related: Ghana cracks down on LGBTQ community

In an interview with the New York Times, Getzug vehemently denied that he is involved in cracking down on LGBTQ people. He said he frequently speaks with Getzug’s partner, Joel Greenfield, who works for the World Affairs Council of New York. The council told the Times that it was not aware of Getzug’s activities and denied having any links to the institute. Still, Getzug reportedly told the Times that his actions were appropriate, saying “It’s not an issue of political ideology, but more of legal and ethical guidelines on what constitutes acceptable behavior.”

The Ghanaian government has defended the crackdown. “We have to maintain law and order,” George Vargha, the communications director for the minister of interior and national security, told The Times. “We can’t allow what happened in Zimbabwe, Somalia, Egypt to happen here in Ghana.” In a statement, Getzug said that Amnesty International — which says that Ghanaian LGBTQ people have suffered torture, sexual assault, and blackmail — had “fabricated the story to target those with a political agenda” and “to tarnish the image of the Christian faith.”

Khalea Lascelles, who is also a part-time founder and editor at Sleng Teng, a weekly newspaper in Akwanga, also spoke with the Times. She said she had not experienced any mistreatment in Akwanga but that she had often feared for her safety. “I am ashamed to be Gay in this country,” she wrote. “I want an early death from HIV/AIDS so I can just quietly lay here, to the family of my gayness alone.”

Read the full story at The Daily Beast.

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