Ex-Gitmo prisoner to remain in Moroccan jail despite assurances

January 6, 2016

Image of a prison cell window with bars

A Moroccan judge has today refused to release a former Guantanamo prisoner who has been imprisoned, despite diplomatic assurances provided to the US, since his transfer last year.

At a hearing today in Rabat – where former prisoner Younous Chekkouri has been held since his transfer out of Guantanamo in September 2015 – the judge postponed the court proceedings, and extended Younous’ detention for a fourth time, setting a new hearing date of January 26th.

This latest decision comes amid speculation over the Obama Administration’s efforts to close Guantanamo, which is a process dependent on diplomatic agreements between the US and recipient countries. By the time of the next hearing, Younous will have been held for 129 days longer than was stipulated in the US-Moroccan assurances.

Younous spent 13 years at Guantanamo without charge or trial, and was cleared for release in 2010 by six US federal agencies, including the CIA and the FBI. The Department of Justice has admitted to Younous’ lawyers at the human rights organization Reprieve – who have been barred from seeing him since his transfer – that some years ago, it “withdrew all reliance” on evidence that now appears to be the basis of his detention in Morocco. Despite this, it appears the Moroccan court may still decide to bring charges against Younous on the basis of the discredited former US allegations.

In the course of US court proceedings, the US government is refusing to provide Younous’ lawyers with documents that could help secure his release. Last month, the Obama Administration submitted a secret filing to the court, which it is refusing to share with Younous’ Reprieve lawyers. Reprieve has said, in a recent submission to the court, that the government “should be working in an open and cooperative manner to correct a manifest injustice” in Younous’ case.

Commenting, Joe Pace, one of Younous’ Reprieve attorneys, said:

“Its hard to take seriously President Obama’s stated commitment to righting the wrongs of Gitmo when the Administration hasn’t lifted a finger to enforce the Moroccans’ assurances that Younous would not be detained at length. The US government has known for years that the allegations underlying Younous’ detention in Morocco are baseless, and they could secure his release with a simple phone call. It’s bad enough that the US took 13 years of Younous’ life at Gitmo without a shred of credible evidence justifying his detention; now the government seems content to let him languish in a Moroccan jail indefinitely.”


Notes to editors

1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] reprieve.org.uk / +44 (0) 207 553 8140. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at] reprieve.org / +1 917 855 8064.

2. Further background on Younous Chekkouri’s case is available here.