US Attorney General must raise Chekkouri case during Morocco visit
November 4, 2015
US Attorney General Loretta Lynch is to visit Morocco for a ‘judicial cooperation’ summit, it’s emerged, as a Moroccan court considers whether a former Guantanamo detainee should be jailed on the basis of discredited US allegations.
Younous Chekkouri was transferred from Guantanamo to Morocco over a month ago, after 14 years in Guantanamo without charge or trial. The US Government has told international human rights organization Reprieve that his release to Morocco took place on the basis of assurances from the Moroccan authorities that he would not be detained for more than 72 hours on arrival.
However, since then Mr Chekkouri has been held in Salé prison, near Rabat, in violation of the assurances. A court hearing today is expected to decide whether he should be further detained; the decision will apparently rest on the authorities’ ‘investigation’ of discredited former US allegations, which the US Department of Justice has now abandoned.
Yesterday, it emerged that US Attorney General Loretta Lynch is due to visit Rabat for a US-sponsored ‘judicial cooperation’ summit taking place this week with the Government of Morocco, among other regional authorities. The event, according to a press release seen by Reprieve, will see the US Justice and State Departments support a ‘regional workshop’ focused on “questions of […] mutual legal assistance.” Mr Chekkouri’s Reprieve lawyer, Cori Crider, has written to Ms Lynch asking her to “urgently intervene with Moroccan authorities, urging them to honor their prior assurances regarding Mr. Chekkouri.”
The US Department of Justice recently sent a short letter to Younous’ lawyers at human rights charity Reprieve, conceding that several years ago they “withdrew all reliance” on “all evidence identifying Mr. Chekkouri with the group known as Group Islamique Combatant Maroc [sic] “GICM””. This had been the chief allegation against Mr. Chekkouri until the government withdrew it.
Mr Chekkouri’s wife Abla, in a Newsweek article published yesterday, said to the US Government: “I am asking one thing of you. Hold the Moroccan government to its promises. Please get them to release my husband from prison. After 14 years of injustice, I just want this nightmare to end. I just want Younous back by my side.”
Commenting, Mr Chekkouri’s lawyer and Reprieve director Cori Crider said:
“The most effective way for the US and Morocco to cooperate to protect their national security is by upholding the rule of law. Ms. Lynch’s Justice Department took part in negotiations with Mr. Chekkouri that effectively promised him he would be home with his family in three days. That was over seven weeks ago. With the Moroccan government plainly flouting its assurances to the US that it would not further detain an innocent man, we can only hope that the US Attorney General uses this visit to make clear the US’ displeasure. Younous Chekkouri is an innocent man – even the US Justice Department has admitted it had no basis for his detention in Guantanamo in the first place. Morocco must do the right thing and release him, so he can finally be reunited with his family.”
Notes to editors
UK: alice [dot] gillham [at] reprieve.org.uk / +44 (0) 207 553 8140
US: katherine [dot] oshea [at] reprieve.org / +1 917 855 8064
2. Reprieve’s letter to the Attorney-General is here.