Census scandal - Scotland's Registrar General must apologise for "misrepresentation"

Press Release from Scotland Against Criminalising Communities
Edinburgh, UK
Thursday 17 March

Census scandal - Scotland's Registrar General must apologise for "misrepresentation"

Campaigners say Scotland's Registrar General must apologise for misrepresenting census contractor's role in human rights abuses

Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC) has today written to Scotland's Registrar General, Duncan Macniven, to complain that he has misrepresented the facts about the role played in human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib by US defence contractor CACI International, whose wholly-owned UK subsidiary CACI (UK) Ltd is playing a major and controversial role in Scotland's census. SACC is demanding a correction and an apology from the Registrar General.

Duncan Macniven has repeatedly claimed that objections to CACI's involvement in the census are based on allegations that he calls "unproven" and "unsubstantiated." SACC has on various occasions highlighted the serious but still unproven allegations of torture and other ill-treatment contained in ongoing lawsuits brought against CACI in the US by former Abu Ghraib prisoners. But SACC has made it clear from the outset that it's primary concern was over the undisputed presence of CACI interrogators at Abu Ghraib in 2003-4. Long-term detention without charge or trial, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation and intimidation by dogs were officially-sanctioned elements of the Abu Ghraib regime of which CACI International was a part. These practices are human rights violations. CACI International's involvement in them is a matter of record, not an allegation.

Richard Haley, Chair of SACC, said:

"The abuse at Abu Ghraib, and the involvement of civilian contractors, is amongst the key human rights issues of our time. The echoes of Abu Ghraib continue to poison relations between the US and its allies and the Arab and Islamic world, as well as sickening people everywhere. It's unacceptable that the Registrar General - a senior public servant - is misrepresenting the facts of the case. He's employed by Scottish taxpayers to look after the country's records. He's not employed to act as a corporate spin-merchant for CACI. The misrepresentation has to stop. There has to be an apology. The Scottish Government has to make it clear that it doesn't endorse the misrepresentation and that it recognises that CACI International has been involved in human rights abuses."

SACC's letter to the Registrar General follows:

Letter from SACC to the Registrar General

Dear Mr Macniven,

I am writing to you on behalf of Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC) to ask that you address the concerns that we have raised over the involvement of CACI (UK) in Scotland's census, and that you desist from publicly misrepresenting CACI International's record of involvement in human rights abuses.

In a letter published in the Dumbarton Recorder today you refer (as you have on other occasions) to "unproven" and "unsubstantiated" allegations against CACI International. As you must be aware, our objections to the contract with CACI (UK) are based primarily on the undisputed presence of interrogators employed by CACI International at Abu Ghraib in 2003-2004.

CACI staff interrogated prisoners held without charge or trial (as was normal at Abu Ghraib) and did so under US rules of engagement that permitted sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation and intimidation by dogs. These practices are undoubtedly human rights abuses, although they are apparently not so regarded by the US Government. These abuses are not "allegations"; they are matters of record.

In addition to its undisputed involvement in these human rights abuses, CACI is alleged by former Abu Ghraib prisoners to have been responsible (with others) for their torture and ill-treatment in ways that went far beyond anything permitted under US rules of engagement. These allegations are the subject of ongoing lawsuits in the US. They are not "unsubstantiated"; they are supported by very substantial evidence. They are, of course, "unproven" for the moment. You highlight the fact that the allegations were made 7 years ago. The slow progress of the cases through US courts is because CACI has so far refused to address the substance of the allegations but has instead chosen to argue that, as a US Government contractor, it is immune to proceedings under US law.

You note that EU procurement rules do not allow you to exclude bidders because of "unproven allegations." But you do not address your failure to make use of the discretionary power provided under EU rules to exclude a bidder that "has been guilty of grave professional misconduct proven by any means which the contracting authorities can demonstrate."

You say that your department is "fundamentally committed to ethical conduct." If that were the case, you would be obliged to use the discretionary powers available to you to ensure that your department - and our country - is not associated with human rights abuses.

The abuses at Abu Ghraib, and the role played in them by civilian contractors, are issues of continuing global importance. It is absolutely unacceptable for a senior public servant to misrepresent the facts of this issue. To do so risks bringing Scotland into disrepute. I hope you will issue a correction to your earlier statements and that you will apologise for misleading the Scottish public in this way.

Yours sincerely
Richard Haley
(Chair, Scotland Against Criminalising Communities)

More information

www.ethicalcensus.org.uk