Statement from Jeremy Corbyn MP concerning refusal to visit Mr. Ali Aarrass
On 1 September 2013, I made a formal written request to the Director of the prison Salé II , and to Her Excellency H.H. Princess Lalla Joumala Alaoui at the Moroccan Embassy, in London, informing them of my intention to visit the torture victim Mr. Ali Aarrass in Salé II prison, Rabat. On 24 September, I was informed that my request to visit Mr Ali Aarrass had been denied.
I was very keen to meet Ali Aarrass in person, since in December 2011 I tabled an Early Day Motion (The Case of Ali Aarrass, EDM 2552) in the British Parliament, which enjoyed cross-party support and was signed by eighteen members of Parliament. (The EDM was subsequently re-tabled in June 2013). That month I was pleased to receive Ali Aarrass’ sister, Farida Aarrass, in the British Parliament and was struck by her dignity and her steadfastness in her quest for justice for her brother.
Over the years I have written several letters concerning Ali Aarrass to the Spanish, Moroccan and Belgian governments – protesting his illegal extradition by Spain to Morocco, expressing grave concern at the allegations that he was tortured on his arrival in Morocco (allegations subsequently confirmed by UN Special Rapporteur Juan Méndez in his report to the United Nations Human Rights Council), protesting his conviction following a deeply flawed trial, and urging the Belgian government to step in to protect a Belgian citizen from violation of his rights in prison. From my conversations with Ali Aarrass’ sister, and with others involved in the campaign to secure justice for him, I feel I have become a friend, albeit at one remove.
It was with great sadness and disappointment, then, that I learned that my request to visit Ali Aarrass had been turned down. The reason I was given is that he is only permitted visits from family members. I have not met such a response before, having visited political prisoners in many jurisdictions, across Central America (El Salvador and Chile) and in Palestine. It seems very harsh to restrict visits in this way – particularly for Ali, whose family members are all in Spain or Belgium. He has no family in Morocco. As a friend of the family, the refusal of my request baffles me. And as a parliamentarian, with a particular interest in human rights, I am extremely concerned by this stance. Ali was driven to a life-threatening hunger and thirst strike just two months ago, by oppressive and arbitrary conditions and restrictions in prison. That strike was resolved when the prison authorities promised to respect Ali’s rights and to allow regular unscheduled visits from a local human rights group – an outcome which indicated that the Moroccan government was adopting a welcome, positive response to Ali’s situation.
Together with Ali’s friends and supporters in Morocco, Spain, the UK, Belgium and elsewhere, I sincerely hope that the refusal to allow me to visit will be reconsidered and that the Moroccan government will continue along the more positive path it recently adopted towards Ali Aarrass.
28 September 2013