Guantanamo Bay detainee Younous Chekkouri has been released after 14 years in US custody and transferred to his home country of Morocco, leaving 115 prisoners in the military prison, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced in a statement today.
Chekkouri's release was initially approved by a review task force in accordance with a 2009 executive order, which took security issues into account. Six different departments and agencies who make up the task force, including the FBI and CIA, along with the Department of Defense, weighed in on the decision.
"In accordance with statutory requirements, the secretary of defense informed Congress of the United States' intent to transfer this individual and of the secretary's determination that this transfer meets the statutory standard," the statement read.
The DoD said it had worked with the Moroccan government to make sure the detainee was treated humanely and his transfer was processed in a secure manner.
Lawyers for Chekkouri, however, have expressed concern for his safety after his release to Morocco. According to his legal representatives at the human rights defender group Reprieve, they have not been able to speak with or see their client since he arrived on Moroccan soil. The organization said Chekkouri is at an "unknown location," a move that would seemingly violate Moroccan law.
"There is no reason for the Moroccan authorities to prolong Younous' detention after all he has suffered over 14 years," Chekkouri's lawyer and strategic director for Reprieve, Cori Crider, said in a statement. "Younous is thankful for all their diplomatic efforts to secure his release — it is inexplicable, therefore, that they would now prevent him from returning to those who love him and who are waiting to help him back onto his feet."
The legal group stressed the fact that Chekkouri was never criminally charged or put on trial during his stay at Guantanamo, while noting that the initial investigation determined that the detainee did not exhibit a threat to the US and its allies.
"He must be permitted to see his lawyers and his family without further delay," he added.
In June, Six Yemeni detainees held at Guantanamo Bay for 13 years were transferred to Oman, a country on the Arabian Peninsula that borders Yemen. Like in Chekkouri's case, all of those detainees had received transfer clearance years earlier and were never criminally charged. The Yemeni detainees were Secretary of Defense Ash Carter's first round of transfers since taking office earlier this year.
Speaking to Vice News after the June prisoner release, Myles Caggins, a Pentagon spokesman on detainee issues, said decisions to transfer detainees are made only after "detailed, specific conversations with the receiving country about the potential threat a detainee may pose after transfer and the measures the receiving country will take in order to sufficiently mitigate that threat, and to ensure humane treatment."
With the latest release the Guantanamo detainee population dropping from 116 men down to 115, there are 50 currently cleared for release. Obama has released more than half of the 242 detainees who were being held at the detention facility when he took office in 2009.