Wednesday, January 6, 2016

U.S. won't release exonerating documents to free ex-Gitmo prisoner held by Morocco

The following is a press release, dated January 6, 2016, from the international human rights organization, Reprieve, which has been advocating for former Guantanamo prisoner Younous Chekkouri. Further background on Chekkouri's case is available here.
Ex-Gitmo prisoner to remain in Moroccan jail despite assurances

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 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."
The Chekkouri case demonstrates the sham commitment to human rights practiced by the Democratic Party administration of Barack Obama. The servile Congress does nothing, or even worse, further demonizes the many innocent men still held captive in the torture prison at Guantanamo. The "alternative" political party, the Republicans, are as bad or even worse, which means the political system has left very little wiggle room for justice to even take place.

The case also demonstrates the bankruptcy of the system of diplomatic "assurances" that surrounds the ongoing U.S. policy of conducting renditions. The inadequacy of such "protections" against torture and injustice was documented in a December 2010 report from the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute, "Promises to Keep: Diplomatic Assurances Against Torture in US Terrorism Transfers" (PDF).

For many years, the U.S. State Department was in charge of getting such "assurances" from other countries in regards to rendition. As Secretary of State for many years in the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton bears responsibility for running this system for a number of years. Today she is a major Presidential candidate, but no one in the press will question her about her actions surrounding rendition. This inattention to crucial questions of human rights when it comes to holding politicians responsible for their actions is one reason why millions in the United States will never vote, as they know the system here is a con.

For Younous Chekkouri, sold to the Americans for a bounty and shipped to Guantanamo, held without charge for 14 years before finally being released to his native Morocco in September 2015, the system has been a horror and a nightmare.

I close with a quote from Chekkouri's 2014 Valentine Day letter sent to his wife from Guantanamo, reprinted in full at the Reprieve website:
12 years of agony. I live like a frightened child or an animal waiting for the unknown. I pray from my heart that my sadness and anxiety will come to an end. I pray to see my wife again, and to be able to tell her everything that I have kept bottled up in my heart for more than a decade.

I dare not believe that I will ever see my sweetheart again. There is only one face that comes to me in my dreams. It is her face, the one who has been crying day and night, waiting for me to hug her and say “Don’t worry my love, it was all a nightmare and now it’s over”.

In every letter I write to her, I tell her that we will never be apart again. I don’t know if she believes me or not, but I imagine her eyes shining and her lips parting in her magical smile. I do know that neither of us ever imagined we would be in this situation. Destiny is a very strange thing.

President Obama and his wife have adorable children, whose future they guard jealously. I’m sure the President’s greatest fear is that he will be apart from his wife or children. Well, I have just the same feeling because I’m human just like them.

I do not blame President Obama though for these long years, I don’t blame anyone. I want no vengeance for the 12 years I have spent in Guantánamo, never having committed any crime. I want only to feel human again, to hug my soulmate and tell her that we will never again be apart.

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