For Immediate Release
Morocco Claims It ‘Never Gave Assurances to US’ on Treatment of Former Gitmo Prisoner
UNITED KINGDOM - The Moroccan government has stated that it had no agreement with the US not to detain a prisoner who was recently transferred from Guantanamo Bay. The claim directly contradicts assurances provided by the US Government to the prisoner Younous Chekkouri and his lawyers at international human rights group Reprieve.
Younous was transferred to his native Morocco from Guantanamo seven weeks ago, after some 14 years of detention without charge or trial at the US-run prison. Reprieve had been told by US officials that the transfer was agreed with Morocco on the condition that Younous would not be detained further than 72 hours, or face charges.
However, since his arrival in Morocco, Younous has been held in a prison in Rabat, in violation of the assurances. He is apparently held on the basis of discredited US allegations, which the Department of Justice dropped several years ago during US habeas proceedings. At a hearing on Younous’ case yesterday, a judge in Rabat postponed a decision until December 3rd, saying that he would interview several witnesses.
At joint press conference today with US Attorney General Loretta Lynch – who is in Morocco for a summit on judicial cooperation – Morocco’s Justice Minister Mustafa Ramid denied that any assurances had been given. He told journalists: "It's true that we negotiated with Washington to bring Chekkouri to Morocco but we never gave any assurances on his release". Journalists attending the press conference were not permitted to ask Ms Lynch questions, and she did not comment on the case. Reprieve wrote to Ms Lynch this week asking her to raise Younous’ case urgently during her visit, but has yet to receive any response.
The Moroccan minister’s comments come as President Obama prepares to unveil to Congress a plan to close Guantanamo. Writing yesterday in the New York Times, a supporter of the plan, Senator Dianne Feinstein – who oversaw the Senate’s investigation into the recent use of US torture – said that many Guantanamo prisoners “were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time and shouldn’t have been detained in the first place.”
Commenting, Cori Crider, a Director at Reprieve and one of Mr. Chekkouri’s US attorneys, said: “Someone is just not telling the truth here. Either US State Department officials misled me and my client about Morocco’s intentions when my client was in Guantánamo, or Moroccan officials have been making diplomatic promises freely and breaking them just as fast. Which is it? And if the State Department did tell Mr. Chekkouri the truth and the promises have been broken, why isn’t this being made a major issue in US-Moroccan relations now?”
Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.